December 2nd, 2008

me w/z-z

Writing Secrets from a Thieving Blabber

          I don't believe in secrets.

       That is to say, I don't believe in the idea of secrets being secret.

        Even the lock on a diary won't protect


        I discovered that ... well ... secret, when I was nine and I read in my older sister's diary
that Tiger Graham was a slobbery kisser.

       I could have told Flip that. All she had to do was look at his mouth.

       The only secret you need to know, as a writer, is that everyone has the same secrets. Call them desires, shames, longings, fears ... write to convey your own secrets and you'll write something universal.

      In order to do that,

      you have to figure out how to unlock your diary.


       There is no clean and easy way to do this. Many writers never do.

       I often steal.

       Wherever I can find them, I collect the bits of wisdom expressed by others that resonate with me, and I

       hoard them.

       From a movie review of "Dan in Real Life": "... does not strain after big conceptual jokes,

       but rather finds humor in things PEOPLE MIGHT ACTUALLY SAY."

       The caps are mine.

       Or this:

                                Edward Steichen on the mission of photography:

                              "... to explain man to man and each man to himself."


        Or this, from an article about a Japanese architect, Toshiko Mori on how she breaks a creative block:

                               "If I may be presumptuous, I never have it, because whatever the problem is,

                                I completely dig into it. And I think one excavates a solution."    

            But, really?

            When I'm not stealing, I believe in what Doris Lessing said when she

            was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature a year ago this month.

                    "... the essential question is: "Have you found a space,

                    that empty space, which should surround you when you write?

                    Into that space, which is like a form of listening,

                    of attention,

                    will come the words, the words your characters will speak,

                    ideas - inspiration... And we, the old ones, want to
                    whisper into those innocent ears: "Have you still got

                    your space? Your soul, you own necessary place

                    where your own voices may speak to you, you alone,

                    where you may dream.

                    Oh, hold on to it, don't let it go."





My secret

Dear Writers,

I have mentioned my writing secret in past posts.

Keep a writing journal.

When I first started keeping a writing journal, it felt a little forced.  And sometimes, I resented it.  (Wasn't my internal editor enough?)  But over the years, I can't think of anything more important to my process.  My journal has served me well--often during my lowest moments--because there are many things I do over and over again.

For example:

I rewrite my first page anywhere between 40 and 140 times before I can write further.

At page 70, I am sure that my novel is dead.  (so long, novel)

I don't know what to write.  ??????

But in my journal, I've done this before.  If I take a week off, generally, the next page comes.

ALSO:  Deleting is necessary.

Really, all my secrets are in my journal. 


Because with each new project, I need to remind myself what I learned in the past.  In my journal, I also keep things like:

memories  (including the memory map)
reminders  (like READ something today, Sarah, or TAKE A BREAK)
photographs and images that inspire me (See old post on Daughters of Edward Darley Boit)
writing slogans  (Show, don't tell/act like a director/trust your voice/what happens next?)

Keeping a journal won't write the book for you, but it helps you anticipate some of the steps in YOUR personal writing process. 

Happy Writing,