Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What Color is an Orange?


I have only recently completed my freshman year at college.  My hardest class, beyond the faintest doubting shadow, was chemistry.  Oddly enough, it was also my favorite class.

“Are you crazy?” you might be thinking.  “What are you?  A masochist?”

While the possibility of insanity has not yet been ruled out, I am most definitely NOT a masochist.  Chemistry is hard, true.  It’s actually worse than hard, but the main reason I loved chemistry so much was because of my professor.  He was absolutely crazy—in the best sense, of course.  There wasn’t a single thing we could find that he wasn’t good at.  When he wasn’t teaching chemistry, he was giving us travel advice for Europe or teaching the men to be men or lecturing us in German or passionately proclaiming why Splenda is a bad idea.  He even runs his own blog with his free time.  It goes without saying that I learned volumes from him.

I also learned the true color of an orange.

“What?” you might ask.  “I thought it was obvious: orange!”

The answer: precisely.

When we were entrapped in the middle of a lecture on thermochemistry or kinetics, he would suddenly fire a question at us.  We, the poor students whose brains were already nearing implosion, merely managed to stare vacantly at him.  Or sometimes, even, we would give the wrong answer. At these times, he would ask us, “What color is an orange?”

“Orange?” we would answer back.

He did this to let us know that we were overthinking the question.  In our fear and uncertainty, we had blown a simple situation into massive proportions.  We had made it too complex in our minds.  We had thought too much.

This can be true of writing also.

Sometimes, when writing, you find yourself at a crossroads—like when you find yourself asking, “Should I use “glittering” here, or would a more daring word like “scintillating” be better?”

For those of us who are writers, we find ourselves at these types of crossroads frequently.  Almost constantly, it seems, we must agonize over what adjectives to use, or whether to use no adjectives at all.  We weave the intricacies of plots, sketch the depths of characters, and add a touch of foreshadowing for flair.  And in all of these cases, we must make decisions.

Whenever we have options, it seems, we always have the option to over think it.  We take a situation that could be relatively simple and we make it too complex in our minds.   This translates into a colossal waste of time.

Sometimes, the bottom line is that “glittering” is just about as good as “scintillating.”

Don’t get me wrong! Choosing your words carefully is important, just as plot and character development is also important. But sometimes, we have to reevaluate what really matters.  If both choices are good, then why agonize about it?   If deliberating is causing you to get bogged down and it is preventing you from finishing your story, then just pick one!

Seriously, I’m telling you the truth.

Over the years, I have seen countless people give up because their project was not perfect.  Whether it was writing a story or learning piano or frosting a cupcake, discouragement has always been one of the biggest contributors to failure.  And a lot of times, people get discouraged because their project didn’t turn out how they wanted it to.

Being a perfectionist is not necessarily a good thing, because let’s admit it, being a perfectionist can sometimes take forever to get anything done.  Sometimes, perfectionism and overthinking everything can lead to a bad case of writer’s block. I, personally, am an advocate of quasi-perfectionism.  It means that you aim high, but accept that you are human and that nothing on this earth can ever be absolutely perfect.

Making decisions is part of life.  But sometimes, spending so much time making decisions causes us to miss out on actually living life—or in this case, getting the job done, getting the story written.

So, when you find yourself at a crossroads, and you are tempted to overthink things, ask yourself, “What color is an orange?”

If both options are equally good, don’t stress about it.  You are the writer, and you have the freedom to pick whichever word—or scene, or personality trait, etc.—that you want.

So pick one and move on.

<3 Hannah


Hannah Lokos's novel is scheduled for release by Champagne Book Group in early December 2013!  Her website is www.hannahlokos.com.  You can also follow her on Twitter , Facebook, or Google+.

6 comments:

Big Mike said...

Interesting. I do slave over every word, yet instead of for 5 minutes, only one so I have improved (g).

Michael Davis (Davisstories.com)
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Julie Eberhart Painter said...

You are right. That's what that NaNoNano thingy is about. Getting over ourselves. Stop the waltzing and start dancing.

linda_rettstatt said...

It can be very challenging to turn off our internal editor and just write. I determine for myself that my first draft is really just a detailed synopsis of the book. I'll have to do one or more rewrites anyway. That frees me up to tell the story and not over-think the details. You can't fix what you don't write. Great post!

Annabel Aidan said...

Love this post -- so true!

By the way, my dad was a chemist, so I'm right there with you.

Allison Knight said...

I hate to tell you this, but I have a degree in Chemistry. I loved it, but then I always like mixing things together. Bio was my field and along with food, I can say I gloried in learning how and why things go together.
Same thing with writing. Watching things go together, making sense, ending up with a whole. Fun! But, hard, hard work.