Hello and welcome to the 100 Day Writing Challenge, Day 30.
The big 3-0. Comes around quicker than you think, don’t it. But we’re still young. We’re still hale and hearty. Not quite as fresh-faced and naïve as when we set out, but not yet a grizzled veteran neither. Plenty still to learn, plenty to grow into, plenty of discoveries to make about ourselves and our writing.
I mean I say ‘ourselves’. I mean you. I’m not going to be doing a lick of work today. In fact I’ll be kicking back here with my trotters up like the feckless idler I am while you do all the heavy lifting.
No, I should say producing this is actually a journey for me too. Not one you’re probably terribly interested in, but I find it really useful to have to articulate what I think about writing. Like, most of the time I’m just down in the word mines trying to make stories happen, right? I don’t actually get much opportunity in those moments to reflect about what I’m doing, and why, and whether there are ways I could be doing it better or smarter or happier. It’s why I’ve loved doing the podcast, and it feeds back into my writing in a bunch of useful ways.
And it just reminds me why I write. Why I do this. Why it’s important to me. When writing’s hard, those things can be easy to forget, and if you’re frustration or lack of confidence is making you feel sad or anxious, very often people around you – usually with the best of intentions – will say to you ‘just stop, take a break’. And while I don’t want to be accused of being a member of the cult of toxic productivity – I should really put some kind of creepy voice effect over that – THE CULT OF TOXIC POSITIVITY, in my experience you don’t get over these feelings by stopping, but by learning to relate better to your feelings of inadequacy, and by overcoming by persisting.
Some of the biggest boosts to your wellbeing, your sense of control, your self-esteem are going to come from continuing even when it’s hard, even when it’s uncertain, providing you also support yourself through those periods with good humour and a bit of perspective. I’m emphatically not advocating the hard slog approach, nor am I valorising suffering as the only marker of true art, but, if you care about your story, if you want to write a cool novel that some day engrosses a stranger, then yes, it’s understandable that hitting difficulties threatens that, and that produces anxiety and disappointment. You’re allowed to feel those things. And when you do it’s worth shifting your focus from your long-term goals to the process, the job in hand today, right now. You say to yourself, well, this is my work. And you write the next sentence.
So the scene you’ve been working on, we’re going to take a run at it again. And this time, I’d like you to adopt a perspective that is neither your protagonist, nor the person they’re waiting for, but a third-party. This may be a character who was mentioned in the previous versions, it may be someone that neither character was aware of. Of course depending on how you’ve written the scene, you might have to get creative to meet this condition. We could be experiencing the scene from the perspective of a ghost, or a squirrel in a tree, or someone watching later on a CCTV camera.
Does this viewpoint character know the original two characters? Or are they strangers? Because, whether you’re writing this scene in third-person limited or first, if this new viewpoint character doesn’t know either person’s name, they’re going to have to describe them externally, by how they look and act, maybe referring to them as ‘the tall lady in the green shawl’ or ‘the police officer’.
This new character’s main interest may, in point of fact, not be with these two characters and their meeting. There may be something else entirely going on in the same location to which the original encounter is just a sideshow.
I don’t know. I’m just tossing out these little provocations to alert you to the range of possibilities open to you. So, to recap, you’re going to rewrite yesterday’s scene, but from a new perspective that is neither of the two characters you’ve written from so far. Keep it restricted to what this new viewpoint character knows, but feel free to write in first person or third-person limited, past or present tense. Whatever you fancy today.
Okay. Does that make sense? The question is entirely rhetorical because we’re pressing onwards anyway. I’ll give you… hmm… let’s say, ten minutes.
Okay? Three… two… one… go.
And there we are. You’re done. How was that?
Bit more challenging today. What I’m keen for you to do is force yourself to push beyond the conventional. Beyond your first, habitual choice. We tend to think of restrictions and constraints as stifling creativity, but actually, they’re where creativity thrives. When you deny yourself the obvious, whatever remains must perforce be surprising and original.
Hold on to what you’ve written today, well done. Let’s pop back tomorrow and see if we can’t push ourselves a touch further.