I’ve been writing stories lately for a work-for-hire project that requires the writer to outline a number of very important things about the tale…before it’s been written. The editors want a synopsis that describes the character and the plot with as many juicy pertinent details as possible. That way of crafting a story goes against my nature. It seems, my writing process is more like Neil Gaiman’s. (I seriously wonder why I’m not getting the same results. Hmmm….) In his 2009 Newbery acceptance speech for The Graveyard Book, Gaiman said he writes stories because there “is a maggot in [his] head, a small squirming idea that [he needs] to pin to the paper and inspect, in order to find out what [he thinks] about it.” That’s me. I haven’t a clue beyond the very basic brain-worms of a character who interests me and a possible problem and an intriguing setting before I sit down to write. I discover the story as I write, with all the deadends, U-turns, and hidden byways that entails. Characters morph on the page telling me their hidden secrets and motivations bit by bit. They do unexpected things for unanticipated reasons. Discovering what I think about something, what I have to say about something is really the “why” behind my desire to write. And I can’t make more than a superficial stab at how a story might unfold in a synopsis. I’m grateful for editors who are willing to see the story morph, offer guidance along the way, and still say “yes” in the end. And I’m learning the value of knowing a few more things about where the story might go before I begin so that I don’t have to face a blank screen. But—as one of the brilliant students I get to coach is currently sharing in a story of her own—”the journey is part of the gift.” It’s a gift to have time to write. It’s a gift to enter someone’s story and try to make sense of it and learn from it. The journey into the story and the discoveries I make along the way teach me every day about what I value enough about the human experience to try to transmit it in story form to the next generations. The learning that I do when I write is what motivates me to write. If there’s nothing to discover in a story, for me…it’s not worth writing.