Forget the plot

I’m a writer.  And I live in New York.

It’s cliché, no?  It worries me so much that I cling to my previous life: but I was a lawyer! I squeal.  I’m not just an unemployed wannabe.  I used to have an office, comfortable wage and something of a career path.  Until I realise that’s another cliché too.  

I go to a fiction writing class on Tuesdays.  I ride the subway from LES to midtown and get off at 38th st.  Even from there, the lights of Times Square burn hot like hell.  I look away and walk in the other direction.  In class, the teacher preaches to us solemnly, gesticulating with partially closed eyes as if trying to remember a better scene.  We take his communion with reverence.

He says things that stick with me.  Don’t create clichéd characters.  Use them to subvert the reader’s expectations.  Build your characters first, and let them chart the direction of the story.  A pre-determined plot can be filled by any character, and is less likely to surprise and excite the reader.  It’s the believable quirks of your characters that shape your story into something that only you could have written.  

Something only I could have written.  Every single thing you write is something only you could have written.  Pity is, it needs texture to make other people believe this as well.

There are so many writers in New York, but there is only one Kiri Milburn who is a writer in New York.

So what?

So it’s better to work on the Kiri part than the writer part, or the New York part.  Because any number of people can and should aspire to be the latter two.

I never wanted to move to New York.  In the beginning I thought I wanted to be a lawyer.  One of the things that makes me happy is that I’m in a place, and doing a thing, I never thought I’d be doing one year ago.  

One year ago I booked a round-the-world ticket.  I decided I’d quit my job at the beginning of 2014.  The ticket placed me in Cape Town in March, Sao Paulo in June and then Berlin, where I wanted to settle, in October.

I never made it to Sao Paulo, or Berlin.

But I lived in Cape Town along the way.  Tackled Africa overland.  Fell in love and in love again.

I came to New York for two weeks.  And then decided to stay.  

Is it laziness?  An inability to stick to a plan?  There’s the plan again, the plot.  Some are by your own design, others may be thrust upon you.  There’s nothing ostensibly wrong with plans.  They give you a jumping off point.  And, Fitzgerald I love you, “fine dives have been made from flimsier springboards”.

But don’t stay too attached to your plan, or the one that the others have for you.  Because being a slave to it can make your life seem pre-packaged and dull.  There’ll be regrets and what-ifs. It’s hard to rouse the energy to turn the page when you know what’s coming.  

Right - mostly people don’t have a choice about sticking to plans.  Things happen and the original plan just isn’t feasible anymore.

What I mean is - you’ll never be cliché if you say yes to things that challenge or confront you.  Make yes your default.  Be the character that subverts people’s expectations and drives their own plot.  Rather than the one that has already been laid out  That’s what got me to living in New York.  

Which is only really cliché if you’re jealous.