The Writing Life: Why I Hate Discovery Writing

This reflection was first published on Wattpad

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

If you ever get a chance to read Dillard’s short essay, “The Writing Life”, you would agree with me that it is an accurate representation of what life as a writer is like. My favorite image from the essay is that while you write, you are essentially digging a tunnel in the dark. This image reminds me of “Panstering” or being a “Gardener” rather than a “Architect” or “Plotter” which is what I am. A panster/ gardener is a writer who writes freely. They do not plan beforehand, rather they go with the flow and see where the story takes them.

I am a writer who likes to control what I say, and plan everything out before I even start writing. Because I take the message of what I write seriously, it does not mean that other writers who do not plan to do not take writing seriously. It just means it could take time to define it if you take a discovery writing approach, I think.

After realizing this, I could not help but wonder why I felt so strongly about plotting and structure. I had a few guesses. For instance, when I was writing my first novel, Alley Cats Runaway on Wattpad, I took this discovery approach. Since I didn’t know what happened next, I ended up adding a lot of unnecessary things into the story. As a result, the novel was 44 chapters long, and it took me an entire year to write it. After I finished the first draft. I found it difficult to edit the monstrosity of a book. It was such a mess that I gave up on it. Even 2–3 years later, revising the story and giving it some structure, I still have not touched it nor have I even attempted to write the second draft (however; I do hope I do so in the future, since my readers loved it, for some reason and it would be wasted not to rewrite it, especially after spending so much time on it).

Now this could be a good reason as to why I detest discovery writing in general, but I knew there was more to it. After thinking more about it, I came to the realization that really I don’t like writing freely, not because it causes me frustration, but because of my lisp.

One thing you’ll learn about me is that I have a “lateral lisp”. I mispronounce some sounds, mainly due to a hearing impairment. I cannot hear certain high-frequency sounds such as S, SH, TH, CH R or W in words, so naturally I never say them. Over the years, I have managed with some therapy to correct my speech, but every once in a while I tend to slip up. When it comes to communicating a message orally, having a speech impairment can really ruin the message you are trying to convey, leading to the listener being put off by the speaker. When I speak, I can’t really edit my speech in the given moment (unless I am recording it) so when I make a mistake, it’s noticeable.

Even though I can’t edit my speech, I can edit my writing, which is why it’s my preferred medium. I suppose, due to my desire to control my lisp, I have applied the same amount of control to my writing. I always plan out what I want to say, how I want to say it, and the intentional effect of the words I type.

I realize this may be too personal, unexpected for some readers. Even I didn’t expect to be writing about my disability in this way, yet here it is. (Actually, whenever I do, write about it, I love it). Now one thing I have noticed after reading this essay is how personal discovery writing is. Discovery writing is allowing your unedited thoughts to flow onto the page from your subconsciousness. In a sense, it is more freeing than the rigid plotting style of writing. While I don’t plan to give up plotting, I definitely will try to loosen up, lisp and all. I can’t wait to see where I end up next.

Other than writing serials, Amelia also writes novels, poetry, essays and blogs.

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