Friday, November 18, 2022

Vision versus Will--Why Both Are So Needed to Create a Good Book

I love summer and fall but I long for winter for its stillness. I'm best able to vision in stillness--and by that, I mean clearly see what I want from my writing and my life.

A good friend once shared that she sees vision as a counterpart to will. Will being the energy to push forward, to move, to make decisions, to set oneself in the chair and do the writing that's on schedule for that day.

Without vision, though, it's just typing on a page.

And that, truly, can be fine. Sometimes vision doesn't come in early drafts. Two of my favorite writers, George Saunders and Ron Carlson, write eloquently and knowledgably about the non-visioning phase of putting words on the page, how essential it is, how often it gets very messed up when visioning is involved. We stop to consider what we are saying, and we're lost. The editor mind steps in, the sheer flow of words gets stuck in analyzing.

But, equally, I find there's a place after the words are downloaded when the writer must step back and look at the vision. Really, that's what "re-visioning" is, right? The necessary act of seeing again. Of looking deeper.

Aside from great food and beloved friends and family gathered around (we are hosting 17-19 people for Thanksgiving), I am most looking forward to the stillness of visioning during these next two weeks of my favorite holiday.

To prepare, today I am sitting still, listening and waiting. It's the opposite pace of these last few months, when my new novel, A Woman's Guide to Search & Rescue, was getting its final edit and I was immersed in submitting short stories as well.

Today I am slowed down enough to enjoy the brown, wintry view outside my office window, the sunlit fields and the last-ditch efforts of three fading maple trees. Inside, a vase of flowers is catching the light. I haven't always stopped to see such beauty lately, because of the pushing, the pace, the will needed to move my project out into the world.

Visioning and will balance each other in book writing like two ends of a seesaw. If you don't have an initial vision for a book, you really don't create something that goes deep enough to touch readers, make them tell their friends and family and writing group about your writing, even change lives if you're lucky. Visions change as the book evolves. For this second novel, I started with a vision of the unexpected and reluctant reunion of two estranged sisters. As it evolved, as more characters got developed, the vision changed into the healing of a family (one of my themes). Both stories made it into the final book. I like to think the pauses, the visioning I did, helped them weave together into a whole.

I usually don't accept the need for visioning time until I'm maxed. Yesterday it hit me as a wave of sheer exhaustion: I needed visioning time like oxygen. I'm very happy about all that's happened but the pushing it's required has stressed me way beyond my comfort zone. I'm an introvert (like many writers) and it wears me out after a while.

Take advantage of the change of seasons to set up a visioning time for your writing project this week. The blog will be on holiday break until early December. Take the time to pay attention to what might be missing in your inner and outer creative life. Maybe just the difficulty in talking yourself into this need is a sign. Or the feeling of too much dried-up material that comes forth when you don't have an overview of your project. And equally, the serendipity that comes through, the originality, when you let yourself stop pushing and start visioning.

This week's exercise: Take your solo self and your writing notebook someplace for an hour, an afternoon, a morning or a day. Let yourself look at changing leaves or mountains or the ocean. Sketch, doodle, or write what comes. Take notes. Maybe you'll get the overview of vision, worth gold to the book writer.

Also: Write down what you'd really like from the project you're working on. What vision do you have for it? Why are you doing it, really?

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