Embrace the surprise

Last week, when I said I was going to put down my head and butt it against a story until it was done, I was feeling pretty frustrated. Every time I poked at it, the story would go in a new direction, getting weirder and weirder. On the good side, this was exactly what made me think it was worth finishing. On the down side, I found it so disconcerting, I would quit for the day. Maybe I thought if I left it alone, it would calm down. Anyway, last week, I decided I had had enough and determined to push harder. After a few days of this, it finally hit me. What’s wrong with being surprised by what I write?

Isn’t that exactly what you want from a story, a good surprise? When I’m reading a story and find it to be unexpected and wonderful, I love that. But when I find those qualities in words I just wrote, it seems strange. I mean, I’m writing the story. I even have a general idea of where I’m going with it. And yet, somehow, when the letters appear on the screen, I surprise myself.

I seem to be making a transition from sitting down to write something, to sitting down to find out what I’m going to write. Once I realized that, I dove deep into the story, discovered something new again, and dove back in. After about an hour in the flow, I came up for air. To my surprise, I had a finished story.

No, wait. I wasn’t just surprised. I was amazed. I was elated. It worked!

And now I have no idea what I’m going to write next. I shall find out.

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