Making decisions is hard. Mostly we just avoid big decisions and go through the motions. It’s easier not to think about it: car or truck or bike, big family or no family, doctor or lawyer, married or unmarried, employed or unemployed, live here or live there? In our adult lives, we settle into those decisions like a tree roots itself to the ground.
When those gamechanger decisions do come around, the stress is almost too much to handle. Where am I going with my life? Is this the right job for me? Do I really want to _______?
Writing is intense because you have to constantly be making those sort of decisions. Every minute that you write fiction, there are a million possibilities that lay ahead of you, and you have to sort through the pile and choose the right one. You decide who dies and who lives, who finds redemption and who meets a tragic end, you decide the fate of entire countries and nations. Even though they take place in a story, these decisions are not easy to make.
You can’t multitask while you’re writing; you can’t cook dinner or put your kids to bed at the same time. So much of what we do everyday is just going through the motions, but writing requires all your attention.
When you’re writing and making all of those decisions, it can be overwhelming. That’s why you have to try and listen to your characters and let them lead the way. Good writers are never untrue to their characters. Good writers let their characters loose instead of keeping them chained to a script.
So I guess the answer is, it’s a sort of outsourcing. That’s the key for the author – get to where you don’t have to make all those big decisions anymore. You just introduce the setting and the problems, and your characters, being the quirky people that they are, will do the rest.
(I like this idea of Outsourcing. It’s probably also a psychological game that writers play – outsourcing their flaws and problems to a character, and letting the character play those out instead of the author… but that’s another post altogether.)