I drove to Grays Harbor again yesterday. On the way, I listened to my CD of writing inspiration for Blackbird and thought about how my book is shaking down. I’ve made a huge leap forward over the past couple of weeks. Something has come unstuck, and the problems that plagued me earlier don’t seem so difficult now. I just have to keep writing.

Sometimes I lose sight of the obvious. I’ve spent so much time worrying over the voice for this book (nothing brings out my insecurities like trying to pin down a voice), and experimenting with tense, point of view and structure, that for a long while I was missing the point. I forgot I was telling a story. Two weeks ago I took an old index card and flipped it over and wrote myself a note which I’ve clipped to my work-lamp: JUST TELL THE STORY. WHAT HAPPENED? If the index card were bigger, it might also say: Averil, stop looking for gimmicks and pretty words because you’re afraid of what you’re writing. Be brave, Chicken Little. Tell the fucking story.*

 What’s taped/clipped/pinned to your workspace?

*Thank you again, CJ, for the mantra.

44 responses

    • Part of it is technical stuff. The plot moves backward in time, which as it turns out is quite a bitch to write. Failure looms large.

      The bigger part is what I would call the ‘what will people think’ fear, which comes from a lifetime of good-girlery that no longer jives with what’s on the page. Writing often feels for me as if I’m doing something immoral. When anyone pokes around at the pages on my desk, I lose my shit altogether, like they’re nosing into my diary. That sense of transgression can be exciting, but only until I think, Oh shit, this is going to be public someday.

      Is it too early for a gin and tonic?

      • And so, in responding to this b/c it fits so well with your “fear…” as well as the good girl stuff, , you will now know what i have on my whiteboard.

        “Write what you’re afraid to write.”

        • If I wrote what I was afraid to write I’d lose my column, my family and every friend I have BUT I’d probably be rich.
          Money is overrated, necessary but overrated.
          My fear…that I wrote, lost and remained obscure.

        • A pen name…actually, and not sure why, I never considered it as an option.
          Averil my dear, you are the expert on that…talk about dirty minds this old broad might just make you blush and then again, maybe not. Hahaha.
          My mind is tripping over itself right now.

  1. A Joseph Campbell quote push-pinned on the wall next to my writing place,
    “You must be willing to let go of the life you have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for you.”

  2. Right now I have my bookmarks for my new short story collection out this autumn. They are so creamy and colourful and just make me burst inside.

  3. I haven’t begun to unpack and really arrange my office in my new house yet. When I do, I am planning to hang a bulletin board, so I can print and post the positive feedback I’ve gotten about my writing. Even if the comments were from agents or editors who rejected me, I’m hoping those words might bring me the necessary confidence to carry on.

    • Perfect. It’s so easy to get discouraged and forget the good stuff. I love the idea of putting it all right in front of your nose, where and when you need it.

  4. The quote on my magnet board: “Once you’ve accepted total obscurity you may as well do what you want.” That’s from an interview with Chris Kraus that I read somewhere online. I interpret it as being empowering, but maybe it has a somewhat negative vibe? I’m not sure. (She wrote “I Love Dick.”)

    • I don’t think it’s negative, and actually that quote rings pretty true for me. I started writing after a I’d failed at almost everything else and had come to accept my future of total obscurity. There’s a lot of freedom in that.

  5. On my board, a card from a dear friend, “The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things. -Mike Dooley”
    A postcard of a comic book artist, “Joe Guy” because I adore his paintings of comics.
    An oversized bookmark from the Midwest Brewers Fest I went to last year. Not really sure why that’s there unless it was because I am always looking for bookmarks and end up using old receipts, tissues, any paper handy. Funny, I could have used that if I had remembered that I put it there.

    • That’s the problem with bookmarks: they’re never around when you need one. You’d think we’d get into the habit of grabbing one when we first open a book, but no. At least you stick a piece of paper in yours. I usually dog-ear mine. I’m kind of awful to books.

  6. The note on your index card should be taped to my bathroom mirror. (I’d see it there more often.) I’m glad you made that leap forward. I hope the road stays open wide.

    • I leave notes on my phone sometimes. Usually something along the lines of: Work first, internet later. My nighttime self’s attempt to bully morning me into getting her words on the page.

  7. A small newspaper clipping I found in a pile of stuff thrown away by the side of the road, the flotsam and jetsam of a lovely little old lady who’d died some years before.

    It says Persistence goes further than talent.

    Today I hope to finish the first draft of the novel I began almost three years ago. It’s dirty, difficult, draining work. And I’m doing it.

  8. Sometimes the answer seems so simple! On the wall above my computer is clipped a scribbled comment made by a friend a few years back. “Not lost, just in suspension.” For some – not exactly inspirational reason – it has literally stuck with me! (BTW, I saw your pics of the kids. They were so beautiful…what a shame about the unwanted attention they received…).

    • Filling the bucket, as my friends would say. That’s what the suspended time is. You need to take a lot of stuff in before you can put anything out.