Once I told a French person that we keep our Camembert in the fridge. That, ahem, actually, you can’t buy unrefrigerated cheese in any grocery store in the U.S. (None I know of, anyway.) She said: “A cheese is alive. The refrigerator is a murder of the taste of a cheese.”* … A few years later, I was in a writing class. A fellow student (not the French person) was telling the class about the story she’d written, that she was about to read aloud. Her eyes flashed and she grinned and chatted and held our attention. That’s why it was so striking when, as soon as she began to read her piece, she turned into a refrigerated cheese. She read beautifully loud and clear. But the writing itself did not reflect the aliveness of her speaking pattern nor her idiom. The charming way
Writing & Editing Tips
I was dawdling in my inbox when I came across this line in Esther Perel’s newsletter: “We have to remember,” my peer told me, “that when people aren’t listening, it’s because they don’t feel heard.” … Great thought, right? It applies to our writing efforts in lots of ways, but here’s one way you might not think of: Do you listen to you? Specifically, some of you, like me, have many different tiny people running around on the inside of your brain. Some are brave and kind, many more are anxious and scowling. In an attempt to calm them, you might be telling these freaked-out minis things like, “Don’t worry! I really want to write my book draft. I have the motivation! This is the year we get it done!” You may even attempt to order them around: “When you pipe up it
“Alex wheeled the Range Rover into the parking lot of MNY Bank. He grabbed his portfolio from the backseat and sprinted to the doors. A quick check of his watch made it official: 9:06 a.m. He was late—again. ***That’s the first paragraph of Built to Sell, a business book that could have been dry as dust. It’s also an example of beginning in medias res. In medias res just means starting in the middle of the story. “Plunging into a crucial situation that is part of a related chain of events,” as Britannica says. Maybe the book begins in the heat of an argument during a war that has already started (like the Iliad). Or it begins with the protagonist already in financial trouble, like the paragraph above. *** The opposite of in medias res is ab ovo—”from the egg”—starting the story at the earliest chronological point.
Here’s a questions I get a lot from clients who want to write books about their lives: “What should I do if I have stories that will make some people in my life look bad? Can I write about my memories without hurting other people’s feelings?” *** Many writers don’t want the blowback from real, live people. So, they attempt to write about their lives, but leave out the stories that might make people—real, nonfiction humans—feel bad. This attempt puts them in conflict with themselves, so they often end up writing along the edges of what they want to say, like a wallflower at a dance club. (hand raised) Which is fine for getting started on a book, but usually there’s a threshold they just can’t cross if they keep their back to the wall. And a lot of memoir writers
“Do it now,” says Ira. Don’t wait until you have the right support or even the right idea. “Just start making it now.” Shoot the arrows now, Olav Hauge might say.* But one of the reasons I find a lot of would-be authors don’t just do it now is that it’s really, really hard. What exactly is it that’s so hard? Is it the writing itself? Finding the time? Maybe. Here’s what’s hard for me: if I start, I have to make choices. Choice after choice after choice. As long as I don’t write my book, my potential is limitless. The thing I’m creating is nothing, so that means it could be anything! From the moment I make my first choice, I whittle down that endless potential. And it’s not just that the potential narrows from limitless to limited. (That should actually feel good, right? It’s taking shape.)
Years of Experience with Bows and Arrows by Olav H. Hauge, translated by Robert Hedin and Robert Bly What you are supposed to hit is the bull’s eye, that black spot, that precise spot, and the arrow is supposed to stand there quivering! But that’s not where the arrow goes. You get closer to it, close and closer; no, not close enough. Then you have to go out and pick up all the arrows, walk back, try it again. That black spot is highly annoying until you finally grasp that where your arrow stands quivering is also the center of something. from The Dream We Carry, Copper Canyon Press, 2018. Shared with me by Holly Wren Spaulding. **** One day, I was home with my son Morgan and who has spent the day either – refusing to play