Squashing the Butterfly

So, you know when you wake up and you’ve just had the most amazing dream, and it’s like you’ve just lived through the greatest movie ever (this is not just me, right?) and you think, ‘wow that would make such a great film or book,’ so you reach for the notepad by your bed (my writer friends will understand this) or the notes section on your mobile phone (my ‘go to’ place right now) and you jot down the gist – characters, setting, action, plot, etc. And it’s like you can see the whole script in your brain, but it’s written in chalk on a pavement and, just as you are copying it down, someone walks over and tips a bucket of water over the words and you are left with…
“Chasing through the woods (who? me?) looking for someone (who?) Someone following (who?) Doorway opens, in a garden, then stairs, then all these people (party?) and…. and…”
Well, that’s what it is like to be a writer. Whether it be a novel or a short story or a poem, you have this amazing and original idea, and you nurture it and run with it, and you can see it and hear it and almost touch it, and then when you try to capture it, contain it, put it down on the page, poof – it’s gone.
Ann Patchett in The Getaway Car (thanks for the recommendation Beth) describes this as the point at which you must forgive yourself and put it down anyway. To catch the beautiful butterfly that is your novel you will need, a net, a pin to kill it and you will have to squash it flat with your fist. So, you either leave it as a wild butterfly, a dream, a fantasy, a ‘might-have-been’, or you accept that it will be less than perfect, and you lay down your best interpretation, and everyday you forgive yourself for the imperfections of your writing, accepting that you’ve done the very best that you can.

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