Friday, December 29, 2006

Not Knowing

For my 4 Week Fiction Primer, I read an excellent essay by Fred G. Leebron entitled "Not Knowing." Of course, it was a handout, so I have no idea where it came from, but it really opened my eyes. According to Leebron, if you know where your story is going, then your story will die. Automatically. My favorite quote from his essay, "I had made myself pre-designate the size and shape of the work before me. ...I couldn't write knowing too much..."

I've been struggling with this fiction writing, primarily because I never know where it is going. I feel like all I do is write descriptions, and nothing happens, because I don't know what's supposed to happen. Then, I sit in front of my computer, staring at the blank page, waiting to know what's going on. My desire to know everything constricts the life out of whatever I'm writing.

Despite Leebron's assurances that writing while not knowing will produce the good work, it is perhaps the most painful part of the fiction writing process. I am terrified, while writing, that I don't know what's going to happen, therefore, nothing ever happens. Then, I do my best to gain control.

It's not like I am unfamiliar with this idea in writing. In poetry, I start with an image, sometimes barely a blip, and a few words, and then I figure it out while I am writing. I guess I am just so accustomed to this in my poetry, that it isn't as difficult as the fiction. Also, I think there is an assumption/prejudice that poetry is somehow more instinctive than fiction or that fiction is more planned than poetry.

While Leebron's essay was helpful in the sense that it proved that everyone had the same process as me, I am still unclear as to where I am supposed to go from here. How do I break myself of the habit of wanting to know?