Force or Not to Force

Chaos Theory...huh?
Chaos Theory...huh?

Today is 10/10/10.  When I searched for images based on today's date, here's what I got.  An explanation of chaos theory.  Kinda like writing.

Although, I'm not sure what the significance is. I thought I'd use it to announce that I haven't found that 'yes' from an agent who will help bring my story to the world, yet.

But I've been told that I can't force a tomato plant to grow by yelling at it, throwing money at it, or by giving it an ultimatum.

"Grow or I'll send you to your room!"

Attack of the killer tomatoes, attack of the killer tomatoes...

Attack of the killer tomatoes, attack of the killer tomatoes...

The tomato will grow on its own with the right environment. Basically, dirt, water and sun. Dirt is pretty much free. Water is cheap. And so far no one is charging for sunshine.

Is getting published, breaking into Hollywood if you're an actor, finding your soul mate, soul searching for your passions like growing a tomato?

I was talking to a fellow writer from work. He's a rabid reader and especially loves fantasy. I'd talked to him at the beginning of summer about his book and he had finished writing chapter five. He asked me how long it took to write mine. I said about four years.

A few months later, I asked him about his progress. He said he was at about chapter five. So either he's been doing some serious rewriting, or he hadn't written much. We had gotten onto the subject of forcing art. He still loved the idea of his book, loved writing, but needed some balance in life. I asked if he used an outline, and he said he wanted to, maybe it would help the flow of his writing and story.

Steven King starts his books with an idea and writes until it's finished. John Irving starts his book with a very detailed outline. He needs to know where the story is going before writing.

Who's method is right?


I told my friend to find a method that works best for him and just go with it. He agreed but stated that he didn't want to force the creative process. I totally agreed. But is knuckling down on your work forcing?

With any creative undertaking, the artist only has to provide the most minimal of ingredients. Just like the tomato plant, it just needs dirt, water and sun. Everything else happens by itself.

Damn it's cold up here.

Damn it's cold up here.

One of the challenging things about writing fantasy is the creation of things that doesn't exist in our world. Many fantasy writers use Tolkienesque creatures, which is great. My story came to me outside of that, and I've spent a lot of time wondering what to call the different things in my world.

My process was simple: I ask the question. Like, what do I call this bug that my character eats? Then I wait. Sometimes it comes to me immediately. Sometimes it comes to me in a month. Nevertheless, it comes to me.

But it comes to me not just because I ask the question, but because I show up for the answer. I spend a lot of time each day fantasizing about my world. I imagine the feelings each character goes through. I think about the conversations they have, their goals, and their character arcs. Since the majority of my days are spent at work, I tend to find a lot of dead time that allows me to do this. Don't tell my boss.

The point is show up. I show up to write. I show up to think. I show up and work. Forcing something would be like sticking strictly to my outline and not coloring outside the lines. Have an outline, but let the idea sprout. Let little surprises in. Let mistakes enter. For those are the things that can make any artistic project grow into something amazing like a tomato plant. Just watch out of the killer tomatoes.

Celebrate Letting Go

Let go.  This is a concept I'm working on in my life.  Letting go. I wanted to win, badly.  I was bowling with a bunch of coworkers, and we were on the second game.  I stepped left of the middle arrow, aimed my ball just right of the middle pin.  My breath was filled with anxiety.  I wanted to win.  Steps were taken and I swung.  Seven pins went down.


I can take down three.  On my second bowl, I forced the ball down the lane and missed the pin by an inch.  Three pins remained standing, mocking me.  Crap!  I sat down as my coworkers took their turns.  Suddenly, I said fuck it, and decided to just have fun.  Turn after turn, I got spares, strikes, and celebrated each small victory.  I wasn't even paying attention to my score.  As a result of letting go, I'd bowled my best game.  Keep in mind that my average score is 100.  That day I bowled 186.

One day, as  a team building activity, my coworkers came up with a scavenger hunt that took us through an open mall.  There were about a dozen things we had to collect, and I wasn't really looking forward to it.  However, I took the time to appreciate what I had--health, job, awareness, food, bank account, etc.

Once we started, I wanted to win.  So did everyone else.  My team of three left in a hurry and started to read the clues to scavenge the items needed.  We seemed to find things pretty quickly, as I'm the worst navigator.  My other team member, never having been at that mall, seemed know the mall like the back of her hand.  She stated she loved malls.  Good enough.  I hoped we were ahead, hoped the other teams were falling behind.

Then we crossed several teams, indicating they were all ahead of us.  I was bummed.  In that moment, I let go without knowing I let go.  I decided to just have fun.  To appreciate the day that my company was paying for us to run around like kids.

As we scavenged and collected, we neared the end of the list.  The very last clue urged us to go to the restaurant we were to eat lunch.  Our gait turned to a speed walk, turned to skipping, turned to a jog, then we stopped.  The restaurant came into view, and our managers were standing there waiting for us.  They were not allowed to participate, but to verify what we collected were correct.  And we were first.  How could this be when we were behind?  Several minutes passed, and the other teams dragged themselves to the final station.

I'd let go without knowing.

Throughout my life, I've noticed that when I tried to control the other team by hoping they'd do badly, I would do badly.  Only when I focused on what I was doing, caring about what I did, and, most importantly, had fun, I did well.  Not only that, but when I celebrated my minor successes, not showboating, my successes increased.

How do you let go?

Focus on what you're doing, have fun, celebrate each success, learn from the failures that are disguised as lessons.