Lesson one on thinking sideways

I’ve gone through the first lesson at How To Think Sideways! Go me!

Obviously my experience so far is quite limited, but I can tell you that the first lesson was an amazing experience for me. Not right away, though. At first, I was hit with an uncertainty at the emphasis there was with getting published. It felt to me that getting yourself published was the end goal of the book–and while it is the best goal there is (but of course), I’m not there yet. I am nowhere near there yet.

Right now, I want to write. I wanted to overcome all the random reasons and issues I had that was preventing me from writing. At that moment, I felt that I had bitten off more than I can chew.

However, as I continued reading and thinking, I realized that for me, just writing wasn’t going to cut it. I’ve been writing all my life. Even if I never get another story done, ever again, I will still be writing in one form or another. What I needed was to be happy with the output of my creative writing. To tell a story that I felt, deep down, was professional quality. A story I might buy off the shelf. A story that makes my heart sing. Would it be publishable? Maybe not. But it would be my baby.

My sappy teen romance novel

My sappy, cliched teen romance novel. I stole it from my sister’s bookshelf the last time I was home. Sorry!

When I was a teenager–a pre-teen, actually–I wrote this very simplistic teen romance novel (rather, novella). I loved it to bits, enough to show it to my older sister (who was actually a teenager), who also loved it. We printed it out and bound it into a book ourselves. She lent it to her friends who told me they loved it too. When I open it now, I laugh and facepalm at my trite story, outlandish scenes, unnatural dialogue; but man, I was proud of that book then, even before anyone had read it.

When I was in high school and in the school newspaper, I wrote a short fantasy story that we eventually published. It may have been my first story in the paper; I don’t really remember. But people commented on it, saying they liked it; and a year or so later I made a sequel when people asked (ooops). I was proud of the story, and I had the guts to have someone else read it and decide if we should publish it.

Were these my only stories? Heck no. I had a lot. And I was very happy writing all of them, even though only a handful was ever seen by another pair of human eyes.

But now, where is that happiness and pride in what I make? Nowhere to be found. I scrap and abandon things left and right. My brain keeps rejecting what I write, that it’s not good enough even just for myself. Not good enough to even keep in a text file somewhere.

So I realized that though I may not have the goal to get published by the end of this course, if I came out with a story that I was proud of by the end–that would be passing with flying colors, for me.

Fortified with these thoughts, I plowed through the first exercise. Yes, plowed. It was difficult for me, at first. You can do the exercises on the computer directly, but I printed the worksheets out as advised and answered them longhand. Practically every other sentence I wrote, I had this urge to stop. “I get the gist of the exercise, that should be good enough.” “Why did I even do this longhand? My fingers feel like cramping.” “Ugh, look at my handwriting, is that even a ‘t’.” And so on.

But later that night, I was sitting on my desk with my worksheet results in front of me, feeling blown away with those two exercises. I came away with an idea, a Thing, that I was really interested in. I wanted to know all about it, and I asked question after question which I gave answer after answer. I felt excited. I felt like I was discovering something.

I’ve missed that.

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