Meander: Learning to Enjoy the Wandering Aspect of the Writing Journey

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Last month, Kate set up a writing date with more than just her and myself. As is the norm when a group of writers gets together, opinions about writing came up. One in particular struck me and has stuck with me since that day:

As writers, we sometimes don’t allow ourselves to wander in our writing.

This is so true! At least for me. After I’ve spewed out all my first impressions of a story, done an outline, and started, I have one goal: Get to the end. Throughout the writing process I tell myself to stay focused on the main parts of the story, don’t get distracted, keep on task.

Bam, bam, bam. I move from point to point in order to convey what I want with my story and stick to the parts I think are necessary and interesting. As a newer writer my worst fear is to bore my audience. To be boring is every writers worst fear. Honestly, as a writer, I’m not sure what’s boring or not while I’m drafting.

Conversely, as a reader, I know exactly what I want and expect. Give me a book and I’ll usually have an opinion of what could have been culled without hurting the main narrative. Why can’t I merge these two parts of my brain yet?

Anyway, while I thought over the italicized point above, I realized that as a reader I like directed meanderings in the books I read. By “directed,” I mean a transgression that either shows me something important about the character, the world, or the story arc. Even sweet little scenes that don’t do much but are done well will make me happy. No, I’m not referring to any random rants that have somehow made it into a story. More the ones where an author deftly slips you away from the main plot for a little breather.

As a writer, I haven’t figured this wandering thing out yet. And as the person who brought the point up stated, I haven’t given myself permission to either.

What’s so wrong about wandering down a path that I hadn’t envisioned in a story? Maybe I’ll end up cutting it during the editing process, but what if I learn something significant along the way? What if I find a new character or story that I can expand down the road? What if I find the path the story is actually supposed to go down?

As of now, I’m going to do my best to let myself meander away from the plot while I’m writing. I’m going to let myself explore a scene I’ve seen play in my head even if it doesn’t belong in the current sequence I find myself working on. I’m giving myself permission to experiment, to step away from the straight line I’m always hell-bent on following.

What are your thoughts on this?

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