Friday, June 29, 2007

don't be afraid to MAKE mIsTaKeS!@

As the title suggests, you really need to just write down what the wild mind dictates in a rough draft. Natalie Goldberg talks about this all the time in her books (I just love her. She's my writing guru!). There will be plenty of time to tidy things up in the various editing stages that you go through as a writer. To begin with you want the muse to sit on your shoulder, unfettered by that annoying little voice that says, "Oooh, do you really want to write that? I think you missed a comma. That's just sloppy!" At this point you need to give your inner critic a sleeping pill or something, just to get some peace and quiet while you work. Let your mind roam the great expanses of time and creative space. Punctuation and spelling is something you can fix later. It is the straightened tie within an already well turned out ensemble.

You will also be amazed by what you can come up with, when you open new doors in the mind without the fear that you shouldn't go there. Nothing is sacred (except writing about that bully who stepped on your foot in the 3rd grade and using his real name. Sure it would be fun to embarrass him now and divulge his current street address, but I wouldn't recommend it and neither would a lawyer.) These are your own caverns to explore. Whether you are writing memoir, fiction or non-fiction - the emotional source of the self has a lot to say. Ignore the inner critic who will tell you that your ears are too big and that the opening sentence is clearly just a boring cliché, and listen to the inner thinker who ponders things for hours while you sleep. This creative type will be happy to take you on a trip to the realm of the fanciful and the infinitely more interesting world of fiction.

In Francine Prose's riveting book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those who Want to Write Them, she quotes a passage from F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. In one of the opening chapters called "Words", she deals with this notion of freeing oneself of being incorrect, in order to find the perfect image that you want to convey to your reader. (Gee, this book is perfect for practically every writer I know. I think I'll buy 10 copies and send them out next year as Christmas gifts! - seriously).

"There are at least two places in which words are, as with deferential palms, used in ways that seem surprising, even incorrect, but absolutely right. It's not exactly a 'shadow' that the wind casts over the sea, or the breeze over the rug, but we know what the writer means; there's no better way to describe it. Nor is there a more vivid way to create the image than the seeming improbability of the two women slowly ballooning back to earth without ever having left their couch." (p.28)

Freeing yourself of the fear of being wrong or incorrect, allows for more freedom in the writing itself. You can wander into places without restraint; you can keep running until the last image is captured. Then you can go back and insert all of the missed commas and upper case letters. Part of correcting awkward language is allowing yourself to feel awkward in the first place. Then you can let your characters stand tall in the fields of correct grammar. Another tip for these writing practice sessions is to have a very fast, free flowing pen. Let it rip!

June 29, 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Blank Page

Where to begin? As a writer do you ever feel like you know how to write a story, or is it the first time every time?

I always feel a kind of jittery tension under my skin when I haven't written for a couple of days. This artistic angst - creativity that needs to go somewhere - keeps pestering me until I put some words down on paper. The very talented author Shannon Hale (Austenland) expresses it best on her blog ( when she writes:

"And I know that when I’m not writing, I’m not happy, and the unwritten stories start to haunt me and tug on my sleeves and demand words on a page, and I cease to be the functioning kind of sane and start swatting at invisible characters. Mamas need our creative output, too. My finger painting is books."

After finishing a poem or short story, I will think to myself, "There - I have cracked the code. I know what I'm doing now." And then the shiny surface fades from the newness of success, and I am left there with a new project calling out for a source of help. Assistance always arrives, after much hair pulling and web surfing procrastination on my part, while also munching on Big Wheat Thins (Not the regular ones. You have to buy the Big ones because they are crunchier and will distract you even more from your writer's quandry). A scene will appear, or a phrase will repeat itself over and over again in my head sometimes when I am taking a shower. I will quickly dry off and write down the gist of things on a notepad by my bed. Sometimes a character will take me by the hand and point me in the right direction. "No, over here. You're going the wrong way! This is my story. Now write it!" Noisy, demanding, little tykes these characters are, aren't they? Like something out of Gulliver's Travels, these Lilliputians have a will of their own. But I graciously accept their help, as they spin yarns and offer up inspiring pearls of wisdom.

Enough said, the little people have spoken. Time for a new story ...

June 28, 2007

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What Can You Deliver Today?

Underneath it all, we are all the UPS truck for someone. As we pick up the phone, ring a doorbell, or send off a card with a few kind words, someone is on the other end of our communication, waiting for that word – for the package of life-affirming connection to be delivered. The truck stops. We look out the window and know that this is a good day, because a brown van is parked on the side of the lawn that has a permanent dent in it from the snowplow. There is power in a word, a smile, or a touch on the shoulder. You never know how much of a difference in someone’s world you can make, until you choose to reach out and cut the ribbon.


“I am in your yard now. How are you? This is my life today. How is your world spinning?”

These are simple questions that can shorten the distance between my hand and yours. It can also shorten the dreaded length of a day by inspiring good will and a shared experience. An impromptu meeting of minds can also lengthen a moment, so that a single drop of rain can be the most fascinating, rewarding moment to stand in awe of as a witness. We are the captivated audience to our own lives. Why not let someone else take center stage, and see how good it feels.