Control freak—Now you say control freak who.
I’m the person who wants to know what will happen before it has happened. I want to be warned. Standing in a bookstore, I will pick up a book if the cover and title interest me. Then I will read the first page, and then—not every time, but enough times that I have to admit it—I will flip to the back and read the last page.
I know. I can hear all the boo hisses from the writers out there.
I’ve been asked, “Doesn’t that ruin it?”
My answer: Not for me. It tells me if I want to invest. If I like how it’s going to turn out, I will read the whole book. If I don’t, then why spend all that time moving toward an ending I won’t like?
It’s similar with TV series, especially the ones that tug me along toward a big season ending. I can only take the uncertainty for so long, and then I give in and google all the spoilers. If I am already into the show, I will watch it play out, regardless of the end, but (and here’s the catch) I will be able to prepare myself for disappointment. I like being prepared.
I like planning. I like knowing. I love certainty.
This, as you can imagine, makes life just a teeny, tiny bit hard to live sometimes. It also makes creativity challenging, at best.
Recently, at the Antioch Writer’s Workshop, Andre Dubus III talked about the importance, when writing, of being open to your imagination. “You must be willing to accept anything that comes,” he said, “no matter what it is.” He urged us to have no outline, to not know the ending of our story, to just let ourselves imagine.
During the weeks that followed, I took an online Creative Nonfiction writing course, Boot Camp with Waverly Fitzgerald. It was a class with daily writing prompts, and I let myself do the thing that I know I am supposed to do but rarely do: I just let myself write whatever came into my head. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was very good, and sometimes it was downright awful. Not that I’m judging.
Ok, yeah I am.
But here’s the thing: I felt at peace with whatever flowed out of the pen and/or keyboard. I trusted that whatever came out needed to come out. And I moved on.
Now, I’m not saying I can do that every day. But I am doing it more and more.
Andre said in his lecture, “If you’re being truly receptive, you’re willing to fail.”
I’ve never liked that word: fail. Or failure. Or failing. So clearly, I’m not truly receptive yet. But I am trying, and I hope I'm on the way. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
In the meantime, you can find out whether I become truly receptive by googling the spoilers.