How my Writing Taught me to be a Discovery Rider

I have been a discovery writer since before I knew what that was. I always balked at outlines in school and avoided them when I could. English papers were created with no rhyme or reason and not edited before they were turned in. (Okay, maybe sometimes I read them over once.) I never got very good grades on my papers and, as a result, I hated English class, much preferring math and science.

My writing has always been like that. I don’t know what I think until I write it. I can’t plan how my characters are going to react until I’m in the scene with them. As such, writing is like magic to me. I discover what is happening as a result of the decisions my characters make, as they each grow to be more and more real.

As I’ve become more serious about my writing, the one thing I’ve found is that I can’t just think my way through a story. When I try, I generally just get stuck staring at the screen. Sure I get little bits of inspiration (that I need to write down as quickly as possible before I forget it) but I never really plan things out in my head. Or if I do, when I get back and start to actually write down the words, I’ll find I forgot or misjudged something important and it has to change.

What works for me is to sit down at my keyboard and start writing. Sometimes I pick a character or a situation first, sometimes I put word after word until I realize what I’m writing about. And what I produce is a rough draft. It needs to be organized and cleaned. But because I have taken the action, I have something to work with, something to learn from. That is my process, and I end up with good results eventually.

However, when I started riding and I learned a new technique, I would listen to the instructor describe the process and then think through the process. I would talk about it. I would ask questions. Then I would try the technique, get it wrong, stop, and try and figure out what was going on.

Suffice it to say it took me a long time to realize that I needed to treat my riding the same way I treat my writing and become a discovery rider. I take the general idea of what I want to get done, trust the skills that I have learned, and then I go and try the new technique. I inevitably get it wrong, adjust, and try again.

Because all of that thinking and analyzing never helps. I am never better at doing something new by thinking about it because I have absolutely no feel yet. As I’ve said before, you can’t develop feel without getting in the thick of it so you make mistakes and figure out how it’s NOT supposed to be, which eventually distils into what it IS supposed to be.

I’m not saying to ignore instruction, either in writing or anything else, but sitting there and thinking about it instead of acting doesn’t do you any good. In the grand scheme of things, the only way you’re going to learn and get better is to do, and being a discovery writer and a discovery rider has taught me that.

What is something that you haven’t done as a result of over-thinking it because you’re worried about getting it wrong?

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