Writing these posts over the past month has reminded me of something. It seems obvious but I’d forgotten: When writing short pieces for regular publication (in this case, every other day), my writing senses sharpen; I become focused on finding the point of what I’m writing about, honing in on this and getting the work done and out there.
This is much different from novel writing, where sharpening the senses and honing in on the centre too early is risky. As a novel writer, I’m always trying to keep the manuscript moving forward as I discover what the story does, and keep open to the possibilities it holds. As I discussed in my first post for this series, eleven years passed between the first moment of writing a scene that would become part of my first novel, Eulogy, and the subsequent publication of that book, one month ago.
I’ve become accustomed to writing with a long term view of the work or, more precisely, a long term view of what the work may become if I let it grow. My mindset focuses less on getting to the point, but on keeping the material lively and moving, and being less concerned about whether there is a point, or an end. It’s an act of faith. The point will reveal itself, as will the end. Deadlines, if they exist, may need to be loose and adjustable.
These two types of writing are so different from each other. One form is short, regular, intense and immediate. The other is loose, drawn out, and the movement toward its definition can be glacial (it need not always be slow, but anecdotal evidence supports that it often is, I speak not just for myself on this).
While I’m used to writing regularly, and I try to keep a reasonably disciplined schedule for producing new material, the challenges of writing for publication every other day exercise a different part of the writing mind.
So, as a closing thought, I’ll offer this: what kind of writing mind does the work in front of you require? If you are in the early stages of working on a novel, find the right writing mind for that: hold the pages loosely and let the story grow. If your deadline is in an hour, find the right writing mind for tha: get to the core of the story, make it clear, amplify it if needed, and get it done.
And, know this, whatever writing mind you put yourself into, the greatest joy of writing is to occasionally be out of your mind.
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Ken Murray lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario. He teaches creative writing at Haliburton School of the Arts and at the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto. He is a volunteer broadcaster in community radio and dabbles in several sports. Eulogy is his first novel. For more information visit http://www.kenmurray.ca.