Beginning The Creative Compass

Writers are those people for whom
writing is especially difficult.

                                                -Thomas Mann

Dan upside down, Sierra rightside up


Most things begin long before we notice.

Sierra and I began collaborating years ago, as I read and edited her early writing. Later she did the same for me.Then, two life threads came together: For several years I’d mentioned the idea of writing a book for aspiring authors, knowing only that I wanted to call it “Writing Your Way” and that it would be about the importance of trusting your own approach to the craft. In that same period, Sierra and I floated the idea that, one day, we might write something together.

So when I decided to begin work on the writing book, it seemed like the perfect collaborative project. After considering the idea, she agreed.

Being from the Ray Bradbury school of “throwing up then cleaning up,” my first attempt at a manuscript was so rough (and so particular to my own writing life) that we decided to start fresh and incorporate workable elements later. In other words, I tossed that first draft into the “graveyard of lost manuscripts.”

And so we began to explore new territory, alone and together. We set a course, like all writers must, into the unknown . . .

Sierra on BEGINNING:

When my father asked if I’d like to write a book with him, I said yes.

It was a relatively easy decision. I’d already spent most of my writing life working with my dad in one way or another, usually in a writer-editor capacity. Perhaps there is something of the writer-editor in every father-daughter relationship: each wants the other to change “just a little,” and resistance ensues.

Even after I said yes, however, we continued for some time to treat a collaboration as a possibility rather than an inevitability — once I finally sat down to read the draft my father had written over a few months, I realized that it better resembled a book he’d write on his own. It didn’t take Freud to recognize that we both had reservations.

We ultimately handled those reservations in the way we’ve each become accustomed to dealing with self-doubt and inertia: we ignored them. My dad made the decision that only a true professional can make when he agreed to largely scrap his draft and we started once more with a blank page. In this, I know we both agree: It’s the most terrifying beginning. And the best.

Read the next post in the series.


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