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Sunday, December 01, 2013

Week Ten: Kate Dolan

When You Don't Know What to Write

“Sow your seed in the morning,
And at evening let not your hands be idle, For you do not know which will succeed, Whether this or that, Or whether both will do equally well.”- Ecclesiastes 11:6 (NIV)

As the Nike ads used to say “just do it.” For me, writing—or any endeavor involving creativity—usually begins with perspiration rather than inspiration. While many people readily admit that a successful endeavor requires a lot of work to back up a great idea, they expect
the great idea to come first. They wait for inspiration. And maybe it comes, but waiting for inspiration is a lot like waiting to win the lottery. It would be nice, but you can’t count on it.

So while I will sometimes find myself fortunate enough to have a great idea for part of a story or the lead for an article, the reverse is far more often the case. I have no idea what to write, but I have procrastinated all that my extremely lenient conscience will allow. It is time to write.

I look at the blank screen and write...what ever pops into my head.
Sometimes I like it. Usually, I don’t. But when I keep going, when I ignore the little (but vehement) discouraging voice in my head, wonderful words often begin to bloom. In fiction, my characters will sometimes invent solutions, or better yet, new problems for themselves. In my nonfiction writing, I may develop a new understanding of a topic which I thought I’d considered to
exhaustion. And no one is more surprised than myself.

The key to these breakthroughs is to keep going. If I do not let [my] hands be idle, then I come up with a complete body of work, a paragraph or a scene I can evaluate.  And perhaps, on
later reflection, I may decide the little discouraging voice was right. What I wrote doesn’t work at all. Most of the time, however, I’ll find that a little adjustment is all that is necessary to bring the words together in the right way.

And then I have this bit of writing that I can add to other bits of writing to make a a whole. If I had sat around waiting for inspiration, or if I had given up when the words sounded silly, I would have nothing on the screen but a blinking cursor.

Yes, every seed I sow will not come to fruition, and every word I write will not be printed. And I certainly do not take the verse literally and work from dawn to dusk without ceasing. Our lives have many facets, and to remain balanced, we cannot devote too much of our energy to one facet for too long. But when it is time to write or create, it is important to “just do it.” For we do not know ‘which will succeed,’ until we try.

Kate Dolan writes historical fiction and romance under her own name and contemporary Christian mysteries and children's books under the name K.D. Hays. When not writing, she can be found coaching jump rope, cooking over an open hearth at a historical site, walking her dogs or riding roller coasters with her daughter. She loves to connect with readers at or on Facebook.

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