Into the Void
It works like this. You’re on dive boat in the ocean. The current is ripping at three to four knots. The wind causes the water to stand up in peaks. Your scuba tank is strapped onto your buoyancy
compensator which hugs your torso. You test your regulator to make sure your breathing apparatus works. You look over the side of the boat. Visibility in this chop is about one foot, and you’ll be diving down to eighty feet. Someone hands you your photographic gear. You turn and sit on the side of the boat, exhale, and tumble backwards into the void. Seconds later you’re in the deep blue, clearing your ears, descending slowly, and feeling the exhilaration that comes from entering another world. You don’t know what you’re going to encounter, or how the photo shoot will turn out. You’ve spent years taking underwater pictures that were over lit, under lit, spattered with sand you inadvertently kicked up, out
of focus, or just plain dull. But you’ve persevered. And by now you’ve done it so many times you know that when you spot a particular piece of coral, or a flaming scallop, or the sun shining through the water at a certain angle, you can use the knowledge you’ve acquired to compose a photo with elements others
have used but in a way that’s unique. And you have the awards to prove it.
Writing fiction isn’t very different. There’s the knowing what to do and how to do it. And there’s the doing it. Several years ago I heard about a creativity experiment in which Japanese art students were divided into two groups. Both groups were given several days to complete their assignments. Group A’s assignment was for each student to make a single drawing, perfecting it as much as possible. Group B was told to produce as many pictures as they could in the allotted time. At the end of the experiment, researchers found that the students who did several drawings produced better, more original work than the group who used the time to create a single piece.
A blank page (or an empty screen) is the writer’s void. Trying to write the perfect story is the writer’s nemesis. Jump into the void. Write. Learn the rules. Then learn when to break the rules. Use the tricks you’ve acquired to bring characters alive, to give your stories a unique voice, to use time and place to weave a fictional world where things happen. Write. As much as possible.
About the Author
forthcoming from Main Street Rag Press in December 2012. Between hiking, cycling, and kayaking adventures, she continues to work on a collection of linked short stories.