I have a confession to make. I am a madwoman.
I have another confession to make. I’m an architect and a carpenter, too.
And even though I don’t have a law degree. I’m also a judge.
It’s all very true.
You see, as a writer, I like to create with reckless abandon. I like to put characters on the page, move them around, give them words to say, thoughts to think. I give them dreams then I might crush them. I create worlds for my characters, sketching out visions in words. Sometimes I go to extremes, creating lavish settings or paltry spaces depending on what I want.
It’s a beautiful thing to write freely. Writing without being tethered to guidelines and restrictions allows for maximum creativity. For me, writing with such abandon is probably the most enjoyable part of the writing process.
According to the Flowers Paradigm created by Betty Sue Flowers, I am in touch with my madman (madwoman, as I prefer to call her). Flowers, who taught English at University of Texas at Austin, says that the madman is full of ideas, writes crazily and perhaps rather sloppily, gets carried away by enthusiasm or anger, and if really let loose, could turn out ten pages an hour.”
But the madman competes with other characters during the writing process, and many times, that conflicting energy brings us to an unpleasant halt. Sometimes my madwoman gets stopped in her tracks, and I get a case of the “red pen-itis” and start striking words. The sketch of my masterpiece isn’t even done and I’m already desecrating it before it’s even done. When that happens, my madwoman gets really pissed. Indignant, even. Before I know it, my architect with her nosy self shows up, trying move things along.
The Flowers Paradigm explains that there are four personalities that show up during the writing process: the madman, the architect, the carpenter and the judge. I’ve already introduced you to the madwoman, the one that writes all the great ideas and crazy stuff. Then there’s the architect that takes the great and crazy ideas and structures it to try to make some sense. The carpenter takes the plans developed by the architect to build the masterpiece. Finally, the judge shows up and gives your writing a careful review, polishing up the grammar and syntax, making sure everything is perfect.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m very much in touch with my madwoman. We hang out often. If you haven’t connected with your inner madwoman (or madman), now’s the time to embrace her. Take her to lunch. Give her time to go wild on the page. Let her do whatever it is she wants. Don’t question or criticize. When your madwoman is completely out of steam, let her go take a nap, or get a drink. Or ice cream (if she’s not lactose-intolerant). Celebrate her accomplishment. Be sure not to invite the architect, or carpenter or judge yet. They’ll set the madwoman off and kill the mood for sure. Trust me, I speak from experience.
After your madwoman is satiated, invite your architect over for coffee. Show them what your madwoman has done. Then let them get to work. They’ll take everything, create a blueprint for the carpenter to work from. Trust them to get the job done. Now’s not the time to let the madwoman sneak back in and cause a bunch of ruckus. I’ve done that before and all she does is kick the architect out and take over. Before I know it, I’ll have pages and pages of great ideas, but nothing close to a finished product. If you find yourself in that situation, give your madwoman a notebook and a pen and tell her to go sit down somewhere.
Once the architect has finished, thank them for their work, and escort them out the door. Now it’s time for the carpenter to come over and get to work. Your carpenter is fully capable of building a masterpiece with the architect’s blueprint. Trust them. They will build just what you envisioned.
So now, your piece is finished. It’s built. You like it. Time for the judge to review your work thoroughly and carefully. They will give it the polish it needs, and then make a ruling letting you know that you’re done. Case closed.
It’s important to recognize these different personalities and give them space when appropriate, or suppress them when they’re not needed. Understanding these roles, and working with them will improve the writing process. Flowers wrote, “Whatever joy there is in the writing process can come only when the energies are flowing freely — when you’re not stuck.”
Gotta go. My madwoman is calling…