The Core of Writing
Some of my best memories as a child are when I listened while my
father and his co-workers told stories. When work slowed in the airplane
hangar, everyone gathered in some breezy spot and I would scramble for a
corner seat on an oil barrel.
With respect and great interest as many as twenty men, ranging
in ages from 17 to 80, would listen as one by one, pilots, mechanics, and
roustabouts shared experiences. Imagine my surprise, when someone called on
a shy eleven year old girl to share the story of her first horseback ride in the Superstition
Mountains of Arizona.
With a bit of encouragement, I left the security of my
perch on the barrel and joined this most exclusive circle. I learned right away
to judge the eyes and body language of my audience and use the best words to
keep their attention. Over the summer I even perfected the skill of making my
audience laugh and sometimes shed a tear.
Then one day, someone said, “You should write that
Sure I can. No audience – no eyes, smiles, or body language to
gauge my progress or success. And I discovered that the spoken word, when
written on a piece of paper just looks weird. But I kept at it and soon my
father took notice and offered a few suggestions. The first of many short
stories took a snail mail ride to a magazine a bit before I turned twelve.
Success? You could say that – in an odd sort of way. In truth
the reject letters piled high. Most said things like, “Nice story. Doesn’t fit
our production.” Over the next twenty years I wrote my stories between having
babies, moving, and keeping up with a horse farm. And I kept sending them out to
magazines. I did find my words in print a couple of times, in newsletters which
didn’t offer to pay for articles.
Jump to the present. I no longer rack my poor abused fingers on
that old Royal typewriter. With the luxury of the delete button, cut/paste
function, and spell check – plus a much needed college degree – and with the help
of a critique group, I whip out stories that turn heads.
There comes a time, however, in every writer’s life, when words
don’t flow. Deadlines approach, projects pile up, stress
What to do?
Remember the core of writing. It goes far beyond going back to
the basics – you go all the way back to what made you love the process in the
first place. Storytelling.
Close your eyes. Remember the story as you lived it – and yes,
this works quite well in fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy. Then tell the story to
your audience of pens and pencils, stacks of writer’s manuals, dictionaries, and
your trusty thesaurus. Or if this doesn't work for you, tell this magnificent story to the flowers in the
When you’ve told your story and your audience is pleased, pick
up a pencil, not a pen, and some old scrap of paper, not a clean sheet because
they’re intimidating, and Write On!
Thank goodness for computers!
What gives you a jumpstart in your writing