Welcoming what comes in

"Barn with an open door" by Joel Sartore

Not only am I revising The Guy Upstairs, I’m also weaving new pages into the story. New pages – from what I’ve heard from other writers and experienced with every single book and article I’ve written – strike fear in all of us. That blank page stares back at me like the unblinking eye of a sea monster. It can see me long before I realize it’s been waiting in the dark, ready to eat me.

When I sit myself down and begin typing what I see in my head, I’m the one who eats the blank page rather than get eaten. But sometimes the words that come through the wires between my head and my fingers are lacking. The last sentence I wrote before I paused to write this blog was: “Dori saw the shaggy eucalyptus trees and the bare dirt in front of the old boarding house.”

Let’s point out all the things that are wrong with that sentence. I’m telling that she saw the trees and the bare dirt and the old boarding house. But what does it smell like? Does it give her the willies? Has she been there before? Does she reach in and unclip her holster as she approaches the front door?

Nope. All that may come when I return the revision or later tonight while I’m brushing my teeth. (This is why all writers, yes I’m talking to you, should have a notebook and pen at the ready.)

But that sentence will get me closer to Dori’s experience as she walks into a suspect’s apartment.

Welcoming what comes in the moment, without judgment (ha!) and ignoring the red underlining from spell check, is not just a writer’s dilemma. It’s what we mom’s experience when, for example, the Little Dude tossed his St. Patrick’s Day shirt in the trash yesterday morning. We were running late. He’d refused all the outfits I laid out on his bed and frankly, I just wanted to hurry this shit along so I could make my coffee. As a writer, I’d rather hit on the eloquent, heart-stirring, I’m-right-there-in-thick-of-it prose so I can hurry this shit up and send it to a prospective publisher.

But if I don’t welcome what comes – yes, even negotiating outfits with my four year-old – I miss the experience. If don’t know frustration, then I won’t know patience and peace. If don’t know bad writing, then I won’t write, period.

So with that, back to the work!


2 thoughts on “Welcoming what comes in

  1. I so hear you — I’m revising my first manuscript *again*.

    About the notepad and pen — I refuse to have them by my bedside exactly for the reason you stated that a writer should have them handy: I would never sleep a wink ever again, because I’ll keep on jotting down ideas. My brain seems to be obsessed with my novel these days :).

    1. We all have to do what’s write , I mean RIGHT for us! But I know if I don’t have that pen and notepad at the ready, I’ll forget it and then that will keep me awake at night.


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