Over at Storytellers Unplugged, matociquala
had a very good post about her writing process
and her struggle to "to stop thinking in detail about [her] writing, and just let it happen".
It's a good post, but there was a comment that caught my eye as well. In that comment, someone laid out that there were four steps in any learning process, and those steps were:
1. Unconscious Incompetence
2. Conscious Incompetence
3. Conscious Competence
4. Unconscious Competence
I think that matociquala
's post is, in the context of the comment, basically a struggle to get from number three to four. And I know she's at least at stage three because, well, I've read her books. The woman is nothing if not utterly competent about how to lay down a story.
I think the steps basically are the life cycle of a writer. I can't think of anyone I know who's journey through writing hasn't roughly gone through these stages. Maybe there is someone out there who's supremely gifted who got to rocket straight to stage four, but I think those writers are rare. As for myself, I think I'm pretty typical among writers.
I started out writing because it pleased me, and though my work was atrocious, I was happy with it. I was in love with all my stories, and thought they were the best thing since the invention of the internet. But, as with most writers, you keep writing and you gain an audience - even if that audience is just family, friends, and a few unfortunate teachers - and you begin to take the craft more seriously. Time distances you from the first flushes of love, and you realize that your works were not as flawless as you thought.
Thus, you've moved from stage one to stage two. And let me tell you, stage two is miserable, because you realize you suck, but you can't do that much about it, except keep sucking until you don't. It's counterintuitive, and what's worse, is you're never quite sure when you move from stage two to stage three - whereas it hits you like a bomb that you've moved from stage one to stage two.
I can't speak on stage three, but I've seen it in a lot of other writers who I admire. And it seems that you retain most of the self-loathing from stage two, but you temper it with the ability to judge things and to accept criticism in earnest, the ability to know yourself, your limits, and your talents. It also seems to be the stage at which you begin to publish, if you're lucky.
But I don't think there's a stage four at all, because this magical zone of unconscious competence, in which you became able to let things flow, and do things more naturally. It seems like stage four is actually just a return to stage one, where you shed the self-loathing and the constant second guessing while retaining all you've learned. It seems like artistic Enlightenment if you will.
And I don't think that exists. First, because I've never seen it in any artist I know. Not just in writers, but in visual artists, musicians, comedians, actors. Even the artists who I consider to be the very top of their profession, the very height of talent, don't seem to have ever achieved stage four.
Whenever I read what these people have to say about their creative processes, they're constantly saying things like, "oh this part isn't working the way I want" or "I know that I have a tendency to do this" or "I think I'm doing this sort of thing wrong". They are always intellectualizing what they do.
I think this is because - with all due respect to matociquala
- there is a point at which driving a car and writing become two different things. You need not be talented, nor even all that smart, to drive a car competently and without thinking too much. If you're of a reasonable level of mental ability, you can do it. Because in it's boiled down essence, driving a car is just teaching your body to do something. It's teaching your eyes and hands and feet to move in certain ways in response to certain stimuli. And that's something that animals have been doing since...well, since there were animals. That's why you can unload it onto your animal brain and free up your higher consciousness for bigger, loftier pursuits.
Any animal when it repeats an action long enough will become unconsciously competent. Take monkeys. We can train monkeys, for instance, to do all sorts of things that seem amazing, but are really just repetitions of stimulus and response.
Well, you can't train a monkey to write a novel. You can offer bananas and punishments, you can read it stories, but the monkey will never have that insane, untenable, very real spark of creativity which makes it digest that story and churn out something new. Writing novels is a 100% intellectual exercise. You can't unload it into another part of the brain, it has to stay where it is.
I think that there is no such thing as letting a story come naturally. I do think that there is a point where some of the anxiety can be taken away from the process of creating. I do think think there is also a point at which you can turn off the inner-editor, and you put things down on paper without so much discomfort. Every writer experiences moments of creative zoning, where the words just come in a nice neat order and you're not constantly struggling for what comes next. But honestly, those passages written under the divine influence of Writing!Zen don't come across as being better than those you fought for.
Because the zen is just an illusion, a feeling. It's just when your anxieties and heebie jeebies and distractions drop away for a little while.
But there is no writing naturally
, because writing isn't a natural act.
Alrighty, that's my jabbering for this morning. Things to be done before the heat sets in. Expect a progress report later in the day.