Thursday, May 23, 2013

Letting the days go by

I've been watching, from a strange sort of time-stuttered distance, over the course of visits to their house, as the son of two of my dear friends has learned to crawl, and as he is getting ready to walk. The most interesting thing for me has been to watch the expressions on his face, these looks of deep concentration, as he tries to tell his body what to do, and frustration, when sometimes it doesn't, quite. And then the big, still mostly toothless, grin of utter delight when everything works.

When I first started keeping this blog, one of the things I talked a lot about was writing. It made sense - I started blogging not too long after I started writing seriously, and, like any other new skill, I was really excited about the things I was learning. Also, one of the things that was so helpful to me when I began writing was the blogs of other writers. They were places to go to learn about things like beta readers and word count and what to do on the days you realized that you needed to cut 30,000 words from your book because you took a wrong turn.

Reading about writing not only was one of the ways I taught myself to be a better writer, it was one of the ways I felt like I had a community - these other people, people with actual publication credits and books on shelves - we did the same things, we had the same kind of bad days, we celebrated the same kind of victories. So when I figured something out, figured it out in a way that I could articulate it enough to write about it, posting it on my blog felt, in some weird way, like I was participating in that writerly community, like I was maybe leaving a path of pebbles for the next set of people.

It's been about five years since I started writing seriously. (I attended Clarion five years ago next month, so that's where I count from.) I'm not sure what I am now, but I'm not a newbie anymore. I am sure that I'm a better writer than I was then. And I talk about writing much less.

Part of that is my own reluctance to talk about ongoing projects. Oh, sure, I'll rant about a bad writing day or exalt when I've figured something out on twitter, but I'm much less comfortable posting extended thoughts on works in progress. I think because I've learned how much projects can shift and change, and I don't want the memory of someone saying "Oh, that sounds cool" to make me reluctant to cut a part that really needs to come out.

But also because writing has become more muscle memory for me. I don't mean to say that it's easy. It's not. Nor am I always convinced that what I am doing is OMGTheBestEVER. (Honestly, I don't think I've ever been convinced of that, even when I am proud of the finished project.) But I have a much better idea of how the pieces of stories ought to work, and how to make characters that breathe, and how to incorporate tone and voice. My brain knows how to do those things now, so I have to think less about how to do them. I feel like maybe I've learned to walk.


  1. Interesting ... I've noticed something like that too. I've shifted away from the blogs I read obsessively when I started out. (the dry sponge absorbing everything stage) I still follow most of 'em, because it's always useful to be reminded of the basics now and then, but I skim them and move on if nothing catches my eye.
    I'm reading for breadth now, rather than depth.

  2. To write, one must write. And write.Muscle memory is a good analogy.

  3. As someone who is also currently watching her son learning how to crawl - well, not even that, more like learning how to suck his thumb - I have to say I like this analogy with writing. It does take so painstakingly long to get it right, and every tiny bit of success is preceded by a million failures...I wish I had a baby's persistence. It's my impression that my son just keeps on trying. He's getting frustrated if something doesn't work, he's getting angry, he starts to cry, but he keeps on trying. It's not a question of "character" (he's much too small for that), but of an ingrained behavior so single-minded it borders on compulsion. It's as if he can't help it. He has to follow the genetic program...Now *that*s the kind of single-mindedness I wish I had as a writer!