I have heard that corporate managers make hundreds of decisions a day. Some are said to suffer from “decision fatigue”. They make so many decisions that simply the act of so much decision making creates a high risk of bad decisions. While this may be half truth and half gobble-de-gook, I am both a manager in a corporation and a writer. And we writers have us management schmucks beat.
The number of creative decisions that one must make in writing a work of book-length fiction is enormous. Slow down and focus on how many decisions come with each sentence you drop onto the page. They multiply like fungi on the underside of a downed elm.
There are decisions of meaning, pace, tone, voice, movement to or away from a plot or scene or character. There are decisions around the balance of dialogue and narrative, how much back-story to include, and where, and what motivates characters to behave as they do.
Before you write there are more decisions. There are decisions of the scope and breadth of what you’ll tackle, questions of where to start in relationship to the story (the wisdom = start as close to the end as possible), questions of genre and form, questions of what to open with, and questions of how to close.
It is overwhelming.
And the thing is none of these decisions can be made when not writing. You cannot agonize over them. It is not a matter of “thinking it through”. It is a matter of “writing it through”. It is a matter of intuition and of letting the book tell you what it needs. Specifically, what does the story I am trying to tell need from me? And then deciding, tirelessly, hopelessly (if the case demands) and without waiver, over and over, to follow that need wherever it leads.
I don’t know if the analogy carries, but can you imagine if corporate managers made decisions this way, scrapping 80 or 90% of what they produce, finding their way along by shuffling characters around the building, then listening and watching them to see what would happen? By capitalizing on conflict and taking the hardest path possible for the sake of a spicy status report?