Write Like No One’s Watching

I’m pleased to have fellow writing friend, Rachel McMillan, here today! And I love her topic, too. Sometimes we writers can become paralyzed when we sit down in front of our computers. Today, Rachel gives us freedom to write like nobody is watching! The floor is yours, Rachel. . .

close the door

I love writing. When it is flowing and my finger pads are tip tapping their rhythm, almost as if propelled by a mind of their own, there is no greater euphoria in the world.  When it’s going badly, there is no void that aches so deeply.

I started writing when I was a little kid and have boxes and boxes of long-hand drafts of stories that will never see daylight– hidden in a Rubbermaid container.  I also have stories upon stories of typed words, snippets and novels-in-embryo stored in computer files and on USB drives.  It was not until about a year ago that I first showed someone a novel I had written, signed with an agent and finally plunged into a world of scariness.

You see, to this point, I had only written and edited and revised for myself. Then, frighteningly, my writing, my world, my delightful book people would be appropriated by other eyes, other readers, other interpretations.

Dickens famously knew more about his characters, their broad, over-bearing and perfect personalities, their picaresque journeys and their comical and tragic turns than ever went into the final product. Dickens wrote his best friends, his community and his passions and pursuits and fears and triumphs  seamlessly sewn into his elaborate prosaic puppet play.

There is romance in writing. Let it flow.

Famously, F Scott Fitzgerald wrote by the sentence whittling everything down and revising and revising while his contemporary and erstwhile friend and competitor Ernest Hemingway wanted to strip everything to the sparest form. He was a manly writer.  Alternatively, the flourished and flowery purple prose of a writer like LM Montgomery (who straddled the Victorian and the Modern period in terms of her writing career) was raked over the coals by male critics for writing pretty nonsense.

However you write, dear friend, write for the romance and for the love affair.  If your love affair is pitting a man against a beast with a gun in one hand and balancing a whiskey in the other a la Hemingway, then, do it, but do it for you and not because you want to consciously strip your prose to skeletal —especially in a first draft.  If you, dear friend, love to practice words that may not conjoin well, that may be dissonant chains of intermingling nonsense or forced similes or anecdotes that trail and fall off with far too many adjectives, then do it— if it gives you joy.  Write first for you.

My facebook and blog followers know that I am still feeling the persistent ache of losing my characters to submission. The moment I sent the book to my agent, a small gnawing cavern began growing in my heart. I miss my friends. I miss them all the time. I think about them all of the time. I wonder what they’re doing.  I wonder how to impart them in some next adventure.  I vowed, still uncontracted, that I would set forth on a new novel and not think about the next sequential story that features my dear book people. Easier said than done.  So I made a deal with myself. I could visit them. I could practice and play with them while simultaneously trying something new.

At this point, I am writing for me. For the grand romance that waltzes me with the words, that joins me with my imaginative (and by this point, very fleshed out) book family, to play and prod them further, to re-set them and shove them into grandiose adventures, here and abroad.

Writers, cherish your imaginations.  Not everything that you type on the page necessarily has to be of publishable quality.  Not every try and start and mixed attempt needs to have a planned endgame.

Every word has a purpose. Every word is a piece to a greater puzzle, a stitch in a patch that will sew up a quilt. Its practice, its perseverance and its romance, a tapestry threaded with triumph and failure, good words and bad, over-writing and underdevelopment…

Every word you read and every word you write should be a transcendent experience.

Read to the point of book drunkary. Write to the point of cross-eyed bliss. Whereupon, you wake up and you think of it, you drift to sleep with its scenes stained behind your fluttering eyelids.

Write like no one’s watching.  It might turn out to be the personal best and most unreadable thing you’ll ever write.  But, oh the gloriously, giddy adventure you’ll have when in its word throes.

rachelRachel McMillan blogs at A Fair Substitute for Heaven.  You can find her on twitter at @rachkmc. She is also a frequent contributor to Novel Crossing.


9 thoughts on “Write Like No One’s Watching

  1. Rachel, great advice. I’ve often said that, even if no one ever sees what you’ve written, it can change one person–you. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Rachel, I love your heart and passion for your words and your faithfulness to your calling. Your writing is stunning, some of the my absolute favorite. I love that you continue to dream and scheme with them. It’s only making your craft richer and deeper for the readers who have no idea of the amazingness that will one day be in store for them!

    1. awwww 🙂

  3. I needed this today! I just submitted my first MS and have been working on the next adventure my book friends will embark on but I’m pushing myself and my writing to get to the endgame rather than allowing my book friends to live on the page in front of me. Thank you for reminding me to write for the joy of story-telling. <3

    1. isn’t it hard to let your book friends go? they’re some of my best friends in the world 🙂

  4. Love this, Rachel. And it’s something I’m not all that good at, actually, because I just don’t know how to turn off the part of my brain that is constantly concerned with how readers will respond to what I’m writing. Even back when I was scared to show my first novel to ANYONE, deep down, I was hungry for that reader reaction. So letting myself just sink into a story without a thought to the reader is hard for me…but the times it’s happened, the times I’ve been devoured by my own story, those are my favorite, most magical writing times. I guess my challenge is figuring out how to cultivate that kind of experience so it happens more often. 🙂

    1. it’s a funny funny thing: wanting a reaction and yet being terrified of it 🙂

  5. Thanks, Robin! I gotta tell you, it is a work in progress. I think it is hard for authors to let go and a life-long prject for many of us 😀

  6. love love love this post!! I get, nay, feel every word – well except the agent and publisher part – you said!! I’ve tried working on a new novel, new setting, new people – and I’ve had trouble getting into it! LOL Per a couple of requests, I’m going to try my hand at a sequel instead…
    I so enjoyed your post, of course I want to read you book and fall in love with your book people too!!


Comments are closed.