Making Sense of Chaos

Lyse Beck

Lyse Beck | March 10, 2024

Making Sense of Chaos


A writer friend of mine and I have exchanged writerly encouragement to each other for many years. The most frequent reminder we bounce back and forth is that writing is really hard.

We take baffling things in our life, in society, in the world, often stuff that strike us as chaotic, and we try to make sense of them. We roll them around, turn them inside out, maybe take a hammer to them to see what they’d look like from a different perspective. Our perspective. A well-known (and completely mad) writer once said to me, “No one cares about the words you use, they care about your perspective on the world.” By writing, we explore our personal take on chaos.

And that’s only the start. Once we have our story’s spark, we then have to wade through that noodle-mess of ideas submerged in a lawless soup. Whether you’re a pantser or a planner, there’s a mess to be worked out. And once you have the story and structure and POV kind of there in your head, enough that you feel you can start writing, there’s STILL a lot to untangle – plot, char arcs, themes, imagery, pace, tone, relationships, foreshadowing, breadcrumbs, and reveals – all at the same time. Talk about chaos. Did I mention writing is really hard?


I was at a party not long ago and a non-writer friend asked me how we do it. How we writers concoct stories, with complex plots, and complicated characters, enough to fill a whole book. I’ve been asked that before and I usually kind of laugh with a mix of mania and bewilderment. But it was a sunny day, and we were having such a heartfelt chat, I sighed and said, “patience and a hell of lot of effort.” She didn’t doubt it for a second. She said writing sounds really hard.

You just gotta be okay with chaos. You gotta be okay that it’s going to take a while, and you gotta have patience to see it through. And here’s the kicker, you gotta be willing to put in the effort. So lean into it. Let the pieces not fit, let the words come out wrong, let the info dump and the MC lounge around, let the logic be flawed and the surprises be expected. Wrangling chaos is not for the weak, lazy, or impatient perfectionist. Chaos will only be tamed a little at a time, draft after draft, with coaxing and careful consideration. Writing is what? Yeah, really hard.

But persevere! We need stories. We need to challenge the things that don’t make sense. We need to imagine a different way forward, or a perspective we hadn’t considered before. And maybe, if we’re very lucky, and our timing is just right, and we capture a little magic between the pages, we can help make sense of the chaos. Writing can be so satisfying and rewarding, not despite it being really hard, but because it is.

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