Up until the past couple of years, my writing has revolved around me. My inspiration has been my desire to make sense of things that seem to make no sense, to search for justice when it seems there is none, to capture memories I want to share with my family and to entertain myself. (Yes, I confess, I often get a chuckle reading my own writing.)
My inspiration changed in 2012 when I took the NaNoWriMo Challenge of 50,000 words in 30 days. What an adventure! Just write! That’s what they said. So I did and I did it as a pantser — I had no idea where my story was going, I just wrote as many words as I could each day. I can still feel the elation of finishing three days early. It was a very proud moment. It showed me that I could write something half decent, that was longer than three or four pages, and had nothing to do with my life. In 2013, I took the challenge again. This time, I plotted and I discovered that I liked plotting. I liked having a road map, a general direction of where I was going. Along the way, I took wrong turns, my characters decided to do things I hadn’t plan for, I got stuck and unstuck, and I was tempted to edit my story before it was done — but! I managed to stay on track, finish in time and I enjoyed the trip.
I think what intrigues me most about the writing process is how my characters come to life. At the start of my writing, I like to think I have a decent idea of who my main character is but really, I don’t; I know no more about my main character than I do about the stranger I might talk to on the train or the chap whose dog I fuss over on the boardwalk. Lots of conjuring but no substance. As I work my story, I will find my main character walking beside me on my treks through Toronto, wanting to share their experience of the city or to point out something I had never noticed and sometimes, when I lay down at night, my character will lay beside me and reveal something intimate, something I hadn’t imagined. Those are the moments I realize of course! How could it be otherwise? And, then I’m really inspired 🙂
But inspiration is not enough — the toughest part about writing is… writing. As long as I bring myself to the table and start typing, my story will happen. The trick I’ve learned is to trust the process — and write the story to the end.
Editing is a whole other story…
Alice Murray is an occasional poet and short story writer. She is currently working on her Creative Writing Certificate through the U of T. She has high hopes of finishing her Book of Remembrance so her grandchildren can entertain her with her own stories long after she has forgotten them.