Writing With One-Arm Tied Behind Your Back

This weekend, I’m headed up to Portland for the Wordstock Writer’s Festival!  I’ll be doing signings, reading, a few panels about writing for young readers (with a whole host of awesome authors).  What’s more, I’m also teaching a workshop this Sunday:

ONE ARM TIED BEHIND YOUR BACK:
“Harnessing the Hurdles Unique to Your Work-in-Progress”

This topic was borne out of a recent observation made by Mary.  It came during the heat of final revisions for Peter Nimble.  I was cursing how much extra work it was to tell a visually rich story from the perspective of a blind child — going through every line to make sure I wasn’t taking my own sight for granted.  Mary heard my grumbling and responded with typical perspicacity:  “But isn’t that what you always do? You only pick the stories that force you to write with one arm tied behind your back.”

Of course, she was right.  I have never had a shortage of story ideas, but the projects I actually finish all contain some ridiculous formal hurdle that makes them insanely difficult.  Why write a feature film when I can write a silent feature film?  Why tell a horror story when I can tell a horror story for children?   Why inhabit the real world when I can build an entirely different world from scratch?

Readers love stories that tackle hurdles, but writing them is a serious pain!  Now, however, I’m starting to believe that the formal challenge is the very thing that gets me through a draft — long after I have grown bored with my plot and characters, I have this “Pet Hurdle” to keep me involved.  Since then, I’ve started doodling pictures of my Pet Hurdle:

 

Isn’t he cute?  The workshop on Sunday will walk writers through the process of identifying the Pet Hurdle in their own work-in-progress and give them some tools for turning that challenge into an asset.

It makes me wonder:  if Peter Nimble hadn’t been blind … would I even have finished telling his story?