When you write to explore

I’ve been thinking about the common metaphors for the writing experience, or at least of novel creation. One is the planner/pantser dichotomy. Either you plot it in advance or make it up as you go. Another is what GRRM calls the architect vs gardener. I’ve also termed the pantser/gardener variety of writing—true of me—“intuitive writing,” meaning you feel your way through it without a set method. It’s not that you discard method, it’s that there’s no set method you apply to all your writing. Your don’t use a template.

I don’t think I’ve ever written two novels the same way. I wrote out by hand my first novel, a story that was based on a dream. Then typed it into the computer. The latest one came from experimenting with a character’s voice, which turned into a random narrative, which morphed into world building, which led to a dozen rewrites culling pieces of the story into a quest, using paper to draw out the plot connections and story progression while drafting in the Scrivener application. Call it convoluted story creation.

Given those experiences, I think I finally centered on what is meaningful about the process to me. It’s not about method so much as it is about experience. It’s about how I feel during the act. Writing for me is about exploration, the journey of discovery that comes when I’m letting ideas flow out of nothingness. E.L. Doctorow put it this way:

The presumption of writing is that you can speak for other people, that you can live lives through your work that you have not lived, and that you can do that adequately and justly. Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. If you do it right, you’re coming up out of yourself in a way that’s not entirely governable by your intellect. That’s why the most important lesson I’ve learned is that planning to write is not writing. Outlining a book is not writing. Researching is not writing. Talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.