Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Root Story ...

For the last six months, I've hardly written a word of original material. For anyone who knows me, this is exceptionally unusual. I'm usually a little engine of productivity. But not lately. For a while, I thought I might be getting disillusioned. I worried that maybe I was done writing. Maybe it wasn't meant to be for me.

But something wonderful changed lately. I turned a corner, and suddenly, I'm flooded with new ideas, new ways to approach the stories I'm currently working on. 

What happened?

I think I turned a personal corner. Honestly. Sounds cheesy, I know, but I think you can't write well unless you're willing to GROW as a person. And I've been struggling, personally, because I didn't know what the next step was. I hit a certain level of technical competency, and I became lost. But now I know what the next story is that I need to tell. I can FEEL it. And I'm excited about it.

I can also see that every book I've worked on in the past contains pieces of this story. I've been moving ever closer to it. It is my root story. It is my personal theme.  

I now think this is the artist's journey. This is what we're trying to uncover: our root stories. What is the theme of your life? What messages have you carried away from your years in this place so far? Which story do you tell over and over, in different ways? I've even begun to think of it as a spiritual thing.  

It's taken me six completed novels, and more recently six months of no writing at all and just thinking and reading, to reach this point. I often wonder if I could be further along in my writer's journey if I had made different choices. What if I had studied more? What if I had been more disciplined in my craft at a younger age? What if I hadn't picked fights with every authority figure? What if I had partied less?

I don't know the answer to these questions, but I have a suspicion that it's useless to even ask. Because every experience and every moment is part of the unfolding root story. You cannot change who you are ... only embrace. I don't think I could have reached this point at all had I not followed this particular path. So in that way, I find myself absurdly grateful for every mistake and every bump and every brick wall, because each of them helped give me this insight that, suddenly, has consumed my creative life.

My hope from here is simple: that the story I'm about to tell is as good as I hope it is.


Mark Terry said...

I've thought a lot recently that not writing fiction for a while might be the best thing for my fiction writing.

I can't seem to do it, so what's working for me is to strike out in different directions. Having spent years and had some minor success writing mysteries and thrillers, I've been writing middle grades fantasy and currently I'm working on an SF novel.

I suspect sometimes the well needs to fill up.

lainey bancroft said...


Hmm, guess that seriously lacks creativity.

Try this: This perfectly mirrors my experiences the last 4-6 months. Instead of creating anything new, I've been weeding through 'done' but not 'complete' things trying to figure out just what the he!! I was trying to say.

I think I know now. I just hope I have the skill to say it in a language others understand.

Jude Hardin said...

Best of luck with your new project, Jon. Sounds like you're inspired!

LurkerMonkey said...


It was funny, because I didn't mean to take a break, and I was kinda upset that I did. But I think I needed the space after all ...

LurkerMonkey said...


Good luck! I know exactly what you mean ...