Take Off your Pants!

You may very well think that I have lost the plot! What has pants got to do with writing? Quite a lot as I discovered on this leg of the journey.

I continue to struggle with finding my voice. This week I reflected on the process of writing the academic books and papers I did in my previous life. Looking back, it was easier in comparison to writing this tribute for a number of reasons. You know exactly what your aim and purpose are and also of significance is that your output is channeled by a particular structure and style.

Given the above, I have underestimated the many decisions I had to make in writing my tribute. First of all, just starting the journey was a lot more difficult than I had anticipated and I have had many stops and starts for a number of reasons. Freeing myself from the academic yoke and finding my own rhythm of writing was the first step. It is very difficult to know what that rhythm might look like when it hasn’t seen the light of day for many years.

I came across a very interesting book on the process of writing, entitled Take Off your Pants! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker. She addresses a number of the conundrums I face, namely do I plot and structure the book or just allow it to emerge naturally. She defines these two approaches as plotting or pantsers, hence the reference to taking off your pants.

She puts forward a compelling argument for having a structure and outline for your book versus flying by the seat of your pants. As I mentioned in my previous posting, the constraints and structure of writing may in fact facilitate and enhance the creative process of writing. I am currently reading her book and contemplating how it may influence my own writing process. Until then, I continue to debate the many questions of the writing journey that seem to emerge wave after wave.

One such challenge I am grappling with is the best approach to tell the story of Eugene and Pieter. Who is to be the fly on the wall? Was it to be told through the eyes of the main characters, namely Eugene and Pieter or a third person observing their journey unfolding? If so, who could this third person be and what would make them suitably qualified to do so? Where do I start? At the beginning, end or middle? And then what might be the beginning, end or middle? When they were children, after they had met, when they were first told Eugene had terminal cancer? And so the questions go on and on. After churning the pros and cons of all the various options around in my mind, I have decided that it was my tribute and therefore I will write it from my particular point of view.

What is refreshing, in what is a very different way of writing for me, is that I do not have to try to persuade you or anyone of a particular point of view. As an academic writer I would have to justify the contribution my writing would make to a particular body of knowledge. The difference with this tribute is that I do not have to persuade the eventual readers of my book of a particular belief or stance; instead the purpose is one of sharing and as the reader, you can make of it what you will thereby co-creating the story with me.

I will continue with my contemplations of structuring vs flying by the seat of my pants and any other additional questions that I have no doubt will continue to wake me up in the middle of the night.


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