Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ten Things I Know For Sure

Here are ten things I know for sure about writing:
1. If you are the kind of person who doesn't like to be told what to do - your protagonists will resist your efforts to make them behave. It's weird - almost like they came from you and weren't born free of your influence. Wait a minute...

2. Life in all its wild chaotic nowness will rise up and lay a beating on you if you try to ignore it for your manuscript. And knowing it won't be half the problem solved.

3. A woman will come to you in your dreams wearing a fantastic outfit of that weird sparkling fabric from the sixties. Silver or gold lamé. That's it. She will insist on you feeling the fabric. She wants to be in your novel. Don't let her in. She'll drive you crazy and so will that itchy stuff.

4. You might not like Neil Young - I really don't think I'd like to spend a whole bunch of time with him - but he is a narrative genius. I want to know what happens to him when he's wandering lonely on the highway. I do. And he understands pace and mood and style.

5. In the middle of the night when the woman in the fabulous lamé comes calling you will wake up and lie there wondering if anyone truly truly knows what plot, story and structure are. And you'll be sure, because it is the middle of the night, that anyone does but you do not.

6. After you finish fretting about plot, story and structure you'll move on to wondering if you haven't been lying to yourself about everything to do with your writing. You'll also wonder what the slinky shiny material is called. You won't remember that it is lamé until the next day and even then you might need to spend an inordinate amount of time on google trying to find it. Time you could be spending on your plot, story and structure for instance.

7. Even though you know all experiences are treasure for your work-in-progress you will be perplexed as to how you can use your new understanding of various strange and out-of-date fibres in a plot where clothing of any sort has barely been mentioned and then it was describing First Nation's dance regalia. Perhaps you need to bring in another character, you'll think! It might solve all your plot, story and structure issues. Well it might! Just like having a baby with your philandering gambling alcoholic husband might help your marriage. Well it might!

8. When your head hits your pillow after a good day in those long dug out ditches that guys fought in WWII - what are they called? Oh, yes, trenches, after a long day in the revisioning trenches you will fall asleep like a baby and the answer to your plot, story, structure problem will come to you intact in a dream. The woman in the lamé outfit (her fifth one!) will explain it to you perfectly. You will feel so relieved. Until you wake up and you realize that she told you the key was that god backwards spells dog. Oh yes. It will happen.

9. You will rise none the less and you will work in your optimum time of day for success. You will eat good healthy brain food and you will stop only to do your pilates or your yoga (where are those tapes - damn it) or take your dog for a much needed walk because hey, he didn't ask you to be a writer now did he?You will find your groove because you've read King and Koch and Lamott and you know it is showing up that counts and the heck with the muse. It's work for heaven's sake not a calling. And you will churn out the work, the shitty first draft or the clarity revision or the final draft or whatever mixture of those three plus the diversions you've taken allow you to call it. Because you are a writer. And you will sleep the sleep of the just.

10. You will awake after sleeping the sleep of the just and look at your previous day's work even though Elizabeth S-C told you NOT TO and it will be brilliant! No it won't. But there will be threads of brilliance in amongst the dog puke and it will simply have to do.

And that is what I know for sure.


Lola Sharp said...

I know for sure that I LOVE this hilarious post. :)

I felt every single word of it, except minus the healthy eating and exercise and in their stead put in coffee and cake and Doritos.

Jemi Fraser said...


Especially #6 :)

Anonymous said...

Jan - Such wisdom!!!!! Especially # 9 - soooo true of me. Now, I admit, the woman in the lame dress has not visited me, although I'm sure she will. But the walk-the-dog thing? Totally my life :). Of course, the brain food in my case is coffee. And almonds and macadamia nuts.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This is SO funny! And true!

Jane--don't read your dog puke from the day before!! Just it if it helps you out. *Does* it help you out, though?

Who Wrote Really Atrociously Yesterday and Won't Relive It. :)

Jan Morrison said...

Lola - thank you! Not to mean the healthy food thing doesn't waver - it does especially in ice cream season...

Jemi - ah, yes, #6 - the repugnance for your own writing being - the middle of the night fear that it is all all wrong. argghh.

Margot - yep, I like to think I'm a sage ;) The women in the lame just hasn't visited you YET. She might be wearing lurex or sparkly spandex too - she's tricky like that.

Elizabeth - I don't know if it helps or not - it is just a compulsion like when arsonists revisit their crime scene. And instead of being caught by a policeman or fireman, I'm caught by SELF DOUBT. Ick.

Ann said...

So that model in the silver lame dress haunts your dreams trying to get into your story too.

Loved this Jan. Laughed all the way through it.
Inkpots n' Quills

Hart Johnson said...

This was FABULOUS Jan! Your lame-wearing character is quite pushy, isn't she? I think that means you need to do really rotten things to her, though making her wear that itchy dress is pretty bad, already.

Talli Roland said...

What a great post, Jan!

I love number 1 - that is SO true. My own stubbornness back to bite me in the butt.

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Ann - yes but unlike the only photo I could find she is of my age and the lame was mysteriously made into big skirts and sweater sets plus pearls. I liked her but man she won't let me be! Guess she's going around...wonder where she got our addresses?
Tartlette - why thank you m'a'am. And I assure you, I didn't make her wear that itchy dress - she loves the stuff! She kept making me feel it and when I flinched she tore into me.
Talli - you got it! Karma, neh?

Carol Kilgore said...

#1 - I always wondered why this seemed to happen to me and not to my critique partners. I'm in for a world of hurt. I see it now. And don't tell me I have to change :)

Elspeth Futcher said...

These are tremendous, Jan. I adore #1 - it's so true. And any post that mentions lame (can't figure out to do the accent, sorry) this often sits in a very special place.

Jan Morrison said...

Hi Carol - yes and why we wonder? Why me? Why them? Very similar to why every dog I've ever been owned by is a serial runaway!

Elspeth - you go into google - find the word and then copy it but I have stopped on the response plane to do so! I could probably do a whole blog post on weird and devious ways to waste precious time...hey! Nah.

Liza said...

So perfect. So true...other than the lame...which I would have remembered in the middle of the night but forgotten by morning. I write beautiful things in my head at night...but come morning...even if I jot them down, I've lost the translation.

Jan, thank you for the comment on my hummingbird post. I've read it three times now and received comfort each time.

Patricia Stoltey said...

It is so bizarre you brought up my woman in the shiny dress. Mine didn't show up in a dream, but just popped into my mind one day. She was in a short silver-sequined dress and had poofy hair, like an Afro. She wouldn't leave me alone, so I put her in a short story, took her to a disco, and killed her. So unlike me to resort to murder that way, but she. would. not. leave. me. alone.

Okay, you probably think I'm kidding...I'm not. And yes, the story is dog puke, but at least that girl out of my life. :)

Jan Morrison said...

Liza - oh good - I love hummingbirds and knew the animal spirit card translation of why they show up in our lives was vivid and good so happy to pass it on. My best friend drew hummingbirds for about six months until she got one for me to eat. That is right. She thought it would undo a hex that she thought I had from eating a picture of a serial killer once. Long story but hummingbirds are definitely IMPORTANT! As are whales, dragonflies and almost every bit of glorious wild nature. My one and I saw two otters running along the shore when we were paddling yesterday. WOW!

Patricia - oh yes, I believe you! That made me laugh so much! Those bizarre shiny dressed women - who the heck are they?

JournoMich said...

I L-O-V-E this! I am definitely linking to it on Sunday...And #9--oh, yeah, I'm always that good!

Fantastic, Jan.

Gothic Lit today at SouthernCityMysteries

Helen Ginger said...

And those threads of brilliance in amongst the dog puke? They will be lame.

Wonderful and funny post.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Great collections of wisdom here. #6 is the main one for me at the moment :)

W.I.P. It: A Writer's Journey

Unknown said...

Love this post!!!! Definitely my favorite of the day!!!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

What a fantastic, accurate list! That woman in the lamé sure gets around, doesn’t she!)

Natasha said...

Fantastic list. My favourite was # 1, and no, that lady has not visited yet, and yes, my life is richer for being a writer.

Jan Morrison said...

Michele - I knew you were. Good that is! Thanks for the strokes...

Helen - why now that you mention it, I do believe you're right!

Lynda - oh the curse of #6. We have to struggle to get free of it and its slinky sleazy material ties!

Jen - Thanks Jen! I appreciate your sweetness (yep back on health diet and missing sugar)

Jane - you too, huh? Last night I spent a lot of time in the White House - I had a very important job and the lady in lame never appeared. Whew!

Natasha -#1 has been a trial and a blessing for me both. I love my quirky stubborn characters but why do they move to Alberta mid-novel? Alberta is FAR.

Mary said...

Great post Jan. Really made me smile.