Journeys in Ink (guest post)

What You Don’t Know Can Help You

February 26, 2010

We are pleased to have as our guest blogger today, Laurie Viera Rigler. Visit her website: janeaustenaddict.

She’s the best selling author of CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT and RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT.

When Bisi Adjapon asked me to write a guest post for Journeys in Ink, I was so excited, because I love the mission of this blog. “Writers supporting writers on the road to success.” What could be better than that, and what more do we need to sustain us?

One post that particularly struck a chord was Bisi’s “Just Hit SEND!” I could really relate to that one, being the person who will do anything to delay the possibility that what I send out might be rejected. Isn’t that one of the greatest hidden purposes of procrastination?

I’d like to talk about another devious trickster in the writers’ panoply of insecurities and neuroses. Namely, the need to be a know-it-all.

I discovered something about my need to know it all while working on my second novel, RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT. Basically, I found that when I thought I knew what was “supposed to happen” next in my story, nothing would come out on the page. I was blocked. And if I forced something out, it was pretty crappy stuff.

But when I stopped trying to figure things out, allowed myself to have no idea what was going to happen next, and got myself to relax, everything changed. I would close my eyes and ask the character in my head to show me. And then words and pictures began to flow. Like magic.

I call this place I allow myself to go into “the state of I don’t know.” It’s a playful, anything-is-possible place. A place where I know good things are going to happen. It is a leap of faith, and it really works.

Instead of having to know it all, in advance (and believe me, I love to be the know-it-all), I have found that allowing myself to know nothing—and feel good about knowing nothing–is the most effective way of connecting with aspects and nuances of my story, scenes, and characters that I could not have figured out with my analytical mind.

By the way, I don’t mean to imply that there’s anything wrong with outlining. Quite the contrary. A lot of authors outline their novels and find them very helpful. Whatever works, works. In fact, maybe authors who outline get into the “I don’t know” place while they are writing their outline. And there’s still plenty of room to get into the state of “I don’t know” when one is writing from an outline, lots of possibilities as to how to get from plot point A to plot point B. Any writers out there who outline? I’d love to hear what you think about this “I don’t know” thing.

All I know is that it works for me, and it’s certainly worked when I’ve tried it in my writing workshops. One of my students said that it freed her up to just write instead of trying to figure out what she was going to write.

Now if only I could stay in that place always, eagerly awaiting the next magical thing that’s going to happen and having no idea what it is…

I’m working on it.

Many thanks to Laurie for sharing her thoughts with us. CONFESSIONS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT is now in paperback in both the U.S. and the U.K. The paperback edition of the sequel, RUDE AWAKENINGS OF A JANE AUSTEN ADDICT, comes out in the U.S. on April 27, 2010. Prior to writing her first novel, Laurie was a freelance editor for many years, editing books like The Bearded Lady. Visit her website at www.janeaustenaddict.com