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As writers, possibly the most heroic thing we’re called on to do on a regular basis is face a blank page and start writing on it. It’s a leap of creative faith – that we can reach into that stream of story that’s constantly happening around us, grab hold of the tail of some passing thing and wrestle it out onto the page, polished up all nice and shiny for readers to devour, ponder, or let linger on their palate, letting all the flavor soak in. If we can do that without letting our voice get in the way of the story, but still maintain enough voice for the reader to say, “I want to read more stuff like that.”, then we’ve accomplished something that might just be worthwhile.

It’s easy, especially for writers who are clumsily advancing through the early steps of getting a grasp on the craft to get side-tracked by talking and thinking about the process of writing. It can be far simpler to examine how you go about writing something than it is to just write it. Personally, I’ve got at least six different programs that claim to help you organize your writing in some way, shape or form. I can sit and play with virtual index cards on a virtual corkboard until the cows come home, realize the last dairy farm in the San Fernando Valley disappeared years ago, discuss what to do, then turn around and seek fresh meadowland elsewhere. During all of this, I haven’t done any actual writing, but I feel as if I’ve accomplished something because I’ve changed the color of the virtual pins on the virtual cards so that, if you squint at the corkboard from sufficient distance, it looks vaguely like a 4-year-old’s rendering of Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon”. See what I mean? Dangerous. Or you get on IRQ with another member of your writing group and type back and forth about the piece you’re (not) writing. The best advice I’ve ever gotten from all the books I’ve read about writing and the pros I’ve talked to is “Shut up and write.” Advice which I will now follow. See you around, and maybe next time I’ll have a story that’s finished, as in written.

cross posted from Less Than Meets the Ear


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May 2009

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