A Guiding Metaphor for the Writing Process

Open crocus - Guenette photo

The one who, “… every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan, carries a thread that will guide him [or her] through a labyrinth of the most busy life.” Victor Hugo

I have a million excuses for the fact that I am not making headway with my current work in progress – none of which I feel the need to waste your time with. What I’ve been thinking about on this fine, Daylight Savings Time morning, is how a guiding metaphor can hold one back or, in the spirit of this day, help one spring forward.

Consider the following piece from my writing notes of yesterday:

Do I have too much material or not enough? Definitely, more than enough! A trimming may be in order. Though I’ve been through these anxieties before, I’m almost overwhelmed by the number of threads that need to be woven together to make this book happen. It feels as though I’m in front of an empty loom with piles of coloured yarn all around my feet. I have to pick up the right thread at the right time and set the pattern. There’s all this fear that I will start out wrong and have to backtrack. It’s inevitable. And anyone who has ever done needlework of any kind knows – pulling something out is hard work.

Loom cartoon - google image

Rereading that section today, I find myself thinking that the loom metaphor is not particularly helpful. It seems, in fact, to be paralyzing.

A new visualization is a must. I’m trying this one on for size.

My writing process is like a free-form, patchwork quilt. I create a square and then another and another. At some point, I begin to lay them out to see how they might fit together and gradually, over time, a pattern emerges. As the design begins to come together, I’ll shuffle and rearrange my quilt squares over and over. Loose threads will be drawn through the pattern. Joining squares may be needed in various spots and the whole work might benefit from some type of border. I’ll have to decide on a special colour of thread to join it all together. The true design will only emerge as I go.

Quilt - google image

No guarantee this metaphor is going to push me over that painful divide from planning the book to actually writing the book but at least I am no longer pinned beneath an empty loom. And this quilt does seem to snap nicely in the spring breeze.

What about you? Does having a guiding metaphor for your writing process help you move forward?