Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dower Crawl Frog

Dower frog, crawl.  Crawl, dower frog.  Crawl, crawl, dower.  Dower. Crawl. Frog. 
(Cue to hysterical 2 year old laughing.)

no rain?  you can still use
the umbrella!
Of course it doesn't make sense.  It's just words strung together.  But to a two year old it was the funniest group of words she'd ever heard.  Who knows why?
As adults it's not so funny.  We say "oh, that's silly,"  and write it off as nonsense.   (the two year old would say we're being kind of silly.)

As writers we can't do that, especially in the first draft.   Oh, I know that we have to write believable things, but isn't that for the editing process?  We have to think like a child and suspend our need for order and sensibility.  Who cares about commas and complete sentences and whether or not the sky is really pink or frogs hop or crawl? The sky becomes blue all too soon in the critiquing process. 
Somewhere along the line someone shows stories how to mature.  The nonsense is edited out.  But here's the difference between the good writers and the other people:   they don't let status quo tell them what needs to go.  The story stays unique and full of imagination.  The writer is willing to take a risk and leave some of the child's imagination in. 
When we write we can't put the craft in a box. It has to change with the story. It has to stay fresh, seeing things the way a child does: for the first time, exciting, new.  At different times my creative process needs different things.  Sometimes a brain.  Sometimes an illustrator and a Tiki torch.  Sometimes a pen and paper outdoors and others a computer while watching horror movies or Suits. Sometimes it's neat and sometimes it scribbles all over the page.
Coffee is a staple in my creative process, as well as the ability to think like a child. Hopefully in the editing and critiquing process the story gets refined and matures into something enjoyable.  But, for just one draft, or maybe two, the story is anything it wants to be.

The creative process needs to be childlike in it's belief that anything is possible. Think of the stories that move you the most. Think of the weird ones. The sad ones. The happy ones. The ones that changed you or inspired you. They weren't always the grown up stories that got published. They once were baby stories that had crawling dower frogs and thought they were hilarious. They wanted to be a princess one day and a pirate the next. 
Crawl, Dower Frog!
I guess what I'm saying is, don't try to make your stories grow up to fast.  Let them experience life.  Let them have twenty characters and head hopping and believe they're perfect.  Let them learn from their incomplete sentences and see what a hangover from too many commas feels like. The editing process comes fast.  Let them enjoy being nonsense kids as long as they can. 
Our first drafts should be as messy and silly as a two year old.  Dower frogs should be crawling all over the place.

If we would let our mind think like a child but use our adult experience to guide it oh the things we could create! 

Added Note:  Two people I would love to watch in their creative process are Neil Gaimen and Dave McKean. What must those conversations sound like? What do their stories and artwork look like in it's infancy? All we're shown is the grown up product. Maybe this is a good thing but wouldn't it be interesting to find out?

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