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Woke to the sound of thunder. Went out and stood in the rain, like someone who had never seen the stuff (sadly true.) The grey of the sky is beautiful in its rarity; a sky that is, for a while at least, not a dare.

The day is a metaphor for what I face on the page, that desire to look at a bigger sky; the realization that I can. My own writer-advice has been tough to follow. Look at the bigger theme of the chapter, I tell this blogspace. Use the overall import/impact of the chapter to drive you. Write to the idea, not the individual word.

Follow your own advice, Lynn.

When the ground upon which one walks is uneven, one tends to fix on the space that will receive the next footstep—to stay steady, to keep one’s balance. The page is like life, that way. Losing the greater meaning, the direction, is too sadly easy when one stands on uneven life-ground. And stepping back for a better perspective: impossible.

The character…it’s me. The plot, my life. The perspective, mine to find. For now, there is a small, welcome joy in this grey day. A day different than the one before, different than the one that will come after. The sky as a metaphor for my life.

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Don’t know about you. Don’t know whether this is the Condition of All Writers, or just the Condition of Me…but moments of doubt have been leaving messages, lately, on my mental answering machine.

These are the moments of whaaaa’? Moments of what-am-I-doing? Moments of uncertainty. And they are not my friends.

These moments are useful, sometimes. Educational. And wretched. They co-exist with moments of wide-eyed delight and cool-eyed assessment. They make us better writers. And they make us miserable.

“Have confidence in your talent,” came the advice from a cherished mentor, “and keep moving.”

Easy to say. Less easy to do, sometimes.

One wants to be confident. One wants to recognize that what one feels today, is not what one will feel tomorrow. Or even in ten minutes. One wonders how it is that other folks manage that strength that lets them proceed with unquestioned confidence; how others recover from the daily setbacks that are the built-ins of a writer’s life. How does one deal with the “might be” when the “is” is not enough?

Whence comes the strength to cope?

So here are the questions of the day: How do you deal with the writerly downs of yourself? How do you recover?

Let me hear from you.

I wish I could see the future.

I wish I could worry less.

I wish the world could be more caring.

I wish I could see farther beyond me.

I wish for the health of friends.

I wish I were better at making friends know how much I value them. I wish I were less impatient. I wish I were less snarky. I wish others could understand the difference between the nod to what’s real and non-positivism. I wish I were a better typist. I wish I were a better writer. I wish the words would come to me more easily. I wish things were less complicated. I wish people understood how age-ist they really are. I wish for love. I wish for it to last. I wish for the small realization of the acknowledgement I work so hard for. I wish for the next thing. I wish for fewer agendas. I wish for less of less. I don’t wish for more of more.

I wish to sleep for a week. And to write in every moment I am awake.

And I wish for Friday. Good–one wish granted. Now let’s get to work on the rest of them….

 

A driving idea for me—and one I find myself coming back to again and again—is the music in words. It may be, for me, a by-product of being dyslexic, with all the auditory-learning baggage that comes with it, but the sound, rhythm and meaning of words are all inextricably tied together.

A recent post on John Adams’ excellent blog, Earbox, considers Flaubert’s tireless pursuit of le mot juste; describes the writer’s (often)  day-long quests for single, perfect words. Did that pursuit include sound and tempo as prerequisites?

For me, the beauty (and happily-torturous challenge) of writing is that, yep, there is one word more right for the expression of an idea than any other. And, for me, that includes its heft in the ear, its quickness or languor, its hiss or hum or voluptuous feel. Finding that combination is a breathtakingly wonderful treasure hunt. Discovering it is what joy is made of.

The right amalgam of the three characteristics becomes the assassin or the deliverer of the idea. In my work, I am convinced that you can see it, feel it, on the page. It helps my chapters pass “the read aloud test.” And I imagine I can see that quality in others.

Take David Byrne, for example. A peerless rhythmist–in lyric, in delivery, in body language. If ever one were tempted to wonder whether he’s truly a writer in his heart (and one look at the journalizing in his amazing blog, davidbyrne.com will answer that question in about a microsecond), just listen to the man talk.

He is halting at some times. Eloquent at others. If you’ve ever looked over a writer’s shoulder as he or she wrote using a word-processing program, you’ll immediately hear the precision word-searcher in the man. He stops. He backtracks. He stumbles. He edits. He wipes out whole hunks of sentences and re-casts. And he does it on the fly, his formulations a paragraph ahead of his voice. This is a writer’s brain at work, no mistake. What comes out on the written page is not as style-bound as might be found in others’ music-in-words. But the process is there. And it’s a joy to hear.

Thank you, David. Thank you, John. Rock the word!

How long can you live on two hours sleep, one night after another?

How long can you love it?

Life is both an experiment and a revelation right now. Anticipation is a drug. I am stalking my imaginary friends into all hours of the night. If this were real life (oh dear, isn’t it?) I would be arrested.

Writing is a relationship, with all the characteristics of a flesh-and-blood one. Sometimes I hate it, sometimes I love it. Sometimes the words seduce me. They have their way with me, in odd places around the house, at the strangest times. Other times, they’re not speaking to me, for reasons I don’t understand. Sometimes, I’m not speaking to them. Sometimes (most often, fortunately) the relationship is passionate and pauseless. That’s where I am right now. But it does screw up one’s sleep.

I keep a micro tape recorder by the bedside. It saves turning on the light every time an idea speaks. Last night–as I immersed in the refinements for a pivotal chapter (and one of my favorites) in the book, the ideas were so persistent that I slept with the recorder strap around my wrist, a new addition to the bed that the cats viewed with extreme suspicion.

I’m not alone in the habits of madness. My friend Liz (whose blog link is there at the left) acts her dialog into the mirror. In this quirk, she is not alone. Good character development requires the skills of a peerless method actor.

I can’t speak for Liz (whose husband, the sweet Matt, has learned to accept these vagaries of a writer’s nature), but I am afraid to write in public places: I talk to myself. The little tape recorder has become the repository for whole chapters read aloud–– the “read test”, played back to myself after I turn out the light; my bedtime story, the deepest test of the music in the words.

Writing is a compulsion. An obsession. There is delight and despair in it. Like being in love. And if there’s one thing that’s truest about me…I love being in love.

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