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Friday, July 3, 2009

Knowing what I'm doing even if I don't know what I'm doing.

This seems to be the theme of my summer so far. Often, during book tour this past month, I would get the question "Do you outline your novels?" And I'd flinch, because I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I don't. I want to be that girl. That girl who outlines and knows where the plot is going and why. I want to be the writer who can tell you how to structure and design the perfect plot. I fumble my way into a story and usually stumble my way out of it exhausted and complete. Then I fix the mistakes -- go back and rearrange the beginning (oh, if only we could do that in real life), strengthen the theme, build more tension, etc...I want to be the girl who KNOWS what she is doing. But I'm not.
And I'm finally beginning, only beginning, to be at peace with this as I've seen -- in the past days -- examples of ways in which I had no idea what I was doing, BUT I did know what I was doing.

I have a sixteen year old daughter -- her name is Meagan. We often call her Megs. I chose this name for no other reason (I thought) than the fact that I liked the name, it felt right and good. Sixteen years I've been saying -- "No, she's not named after anyone, I just liked the name." Then this week I was talking to a visiting friend and describing my favorite childhood memory, which is this: the endless and glorious days I spent in our summer cabin in Cape Cod on Megs Lane. Oh, I get it. I knew what I was doing.

I titled my most recent book Driftwood Summer because I'm fascinated with a glittering string of houses on Daufuskie Island named Driftwood Cottages. But it seems I knew what I was doing -- because I used the word Driftwood in my title, and USA Today included the book in a roundup of "Beach Titles". The article was all about beach-sounding titles. Oh, I get it.I knew what I was doing.

I won't bore you with more examples. But maybe, just maybe, we know what we are doing even when we feel like we don't know. And this more than anything might be what writing is like for me. Doing something day after day even when I don't FEEL like I know what I'm doing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love what you have written here. I do not outline stories either. I am writing a book and while I have an idea where I want to go - the characters are taking me there. Thanks for sharing this and thank you for judging Scratch..

Dody Williams


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