Entertaining a promising new story idea, whether character development or plot point, is like cleaning a room. Or rearranging one. Nothing is accomplished without first making a mess.

The disturbance to one’s comfort zone is wretched. Upsetting. Suddenly, nothing is where it belongs, and nothing belongs anywhere. Your hard-won plot, your cherished story—hell, your life—lay in chaos at your feet. The intention to simplify, to introduce change, is a terrific thing…but the distance between intent and execution is a bridge too far.

Chaos hidden in a back room is easy to keep out of mind. Chaos front and center of one’s thinking is impossible to ignore. It owns the attention. In its presence, nothing can move forward; the story stands still, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, looking for a clear space in which to settle.

Re-imposing order, not so easy. One sits back and studies the bones of the story-space. One ponders and frets about everything that isn’t getting done until the disarray gets sorted out…and that may not happen anytime soon.

Yet, gradually, a shape begins to present itself. This thought goes here. That goes there…no, there. This one makes more sense elsewhere. That one can go into the trash; seems that I didn’t need it, after all.

After a time, Order emerges. The writer finds that more has been put away than is left on the floor. Each idea has found a cozy fit beside another—and, astonishingly, both are better for it. The story is neat and dusted, shiny and new.

What was all the fuss about, again?

Advertisements