Insecure Writer’s Support Group – February 5, 2013

Today is the first  Wednesday of the month, which means it is IWSG day. The once-a-month blog hop started by Alec Cavanaugh . IWSG = Insecure Writers’ Support Group (click the words to visit)

We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy or practical suggestions. 

“Odd creatures, writers…”

Today I would like to address a concern that just about every writer I have ever known shares.  It is something that haunts our dreams, something that dictates our actions, something that makes our loved ones look at us with one eyebrow raised and extremely quizzical expressions, as though they  have just turned over a rock and seen something truly strange come scuttling out.

The way writers view their words

I am speaking of the terror we feel when we are nowhere near anything that can capture our precious, priceless words as they spring fully armed to our heads, rather like Athene in the old Greek legends.

We have various ways of combating that terror.  Some people carry around notebooks, some use a permutation of a Dictaphone, garnering stares from people who find the spectacle of someone yakking into a box rather diverting in an odd fashion.

Wine stain in left-most towel

There are jotters of all types.  Some jotters never carry around anything upon which they can jot, and are reduced to scribbling on the backs of grocery receipts (those that don’t have advertisements and offers on the back), voided checks, toilet paper (they seldom do that twice unless they are in a public toilet in France where, I am convinced, the TP is made of recycled chain mail.  Or, perhaps, barbed wire.  But then the problem of with what to write arises).  Some of us use paper towels.  I confess to that silliness…  

So what do you do if you accidentally use your deathless words to mop up spilled red wine (see above)?

Wow!  Alas!  Phooey!

Most people use notebooks.  I certainly do.  At any moment I have about four going.  I start out with a dedicated notebook for each story.   Unfortunately, I may pack the notebook for my French story and instead get an idea for the Egyptian story I’m fiddling with at the moment.  What to do?  Snatch a piece of toilet paper (which means I get to travel to France!) and hope I don’t blow my nose on it?  Nah.  I write in the incorrect notebook and make a mental note that the deathless scene is in it.

Of course, then I mis-file my mental note and bewail my fate and mourn the loss of my deathless words.

It’s always a puzzlement…  (I have to bring Yul Brynner in this somehow.

Well, it’s one of those conditions that few of us have conquered. for myself, if (I say IF) I become famous, my descendants will not have to starve in the streets or work in a sweat shop or kow-tow to people who have no more qualification for leading people than silverfish.  And who are, perhaps, less beautiful than silverfish.   (I was going to post a photo of a silverfish here, but after looking them over I decided that I’d rather chew my fingernails.)

What to do?  Well, like many of our insecurities, I just live with it.  I have actually found, when I have located my deathless words, once lost, that they weren’t all that great after all, and what I actually wrote in desperation, just knowing that the story would be ruined – simply ruined! – actually were more fully formed, satisfying and colorful than what I thought I’d lost.

…but without insecurities, would we be real writers?


This is a blog hop with lots of good participation.  Go forth and read!

How on Earth Do You Write – Some Observations

Snippets from discussions on process and necessities in writing:
I seldom visualize the beginning of a novel. Usually I have an idea for a happening or series of happenings upon which the novel is based. Writing their progression almost always leads to clarification of their point of origin (as to the story flow..)
cough! cough! Gosh, I’m sorry. That was a horrible bit of talking.
What I mean is that the flow of the story helps to clarify things that have caused its course.

An example: I’m working on a story right now involving the death of a young man and its effect on his family, including a younger brother and his father, who receives the word late. My first image of the story was the young man’s death and his father’s initial reaction. As I filled that in, I was able to picture how the fellow ended up in the position in which he was killed.

Ultimately, I realized that the best way to start the story was to show the father taking leave of his sons, with some instructions to the older one. The older son (who dies) has shown uneasiness with his situation, which ultimately leads to his death. It works, but my first image was of the father’s initial, anguished reaction.

Another story involves a colossal statue crashing down into the middle of a festival throng. The mystery progresses from there. In that case, that scene is chapter 1 – but there is a prologue set several decades before the provides clues to the mystery. 

Must Do’s

From what I’m reading, we all have some sort of ‘routine’, however loose, and some sort of absolutely must do’s, no matter how loose they seem.

It’s delicious when an idea catches hold and the words come flowing out faster than your fingers can move. But why, oh why, does this happen when you’re going hammer and tongs with something that absolutely must be finished within a certain time frame?

You give a shout of joy and then start swearing. Or, I do.

My ‘Absolute Must’ is that I must somehow, in some retrievable way, capture the idea, the snippet of speech, the scene setting, the plot twist. Thinking ‘I’ll remember this, certainly!’ doesn’t work. I speed-jotted a scene that I was delighted with in the manuscript that I am finishing up. Delighted – and I tried to tell a friend just what happened in the scene.  Here’s what I said…

He goes on to patrol the upper path, and she goes with him because she believes he needs the company after the extreme danger and stress of the morning.
He says… Well, he tells her… Um. He apologizes. She says he doesn’t have to. No, wait! I forgot! She insists on going with him because she is a soldier’s widow and knows about how things work.

Gah! I’m telling it wrong.

Anyhow, he tries to apologize and her heart turns over. I think that’s how I phrased it…
What did he apologize for? Why, for being emotional a couple days before. You mean you couldn’t figure that out? What the heck?
Well, anyhow it was a great scene and I captured it before I forgot it. What do you mean I’ve forgotten it? I have it written down! ‘Mind like a sieve???’ Now just a minute! OK, OK, I’ll let you read the scene once I print it.