Tag Archives: writing novels

Weaving my Web

There’s a spider who lives right outside our front door. We’ll call him Fred. And every morning we have to apologize to Fred as we dismantle his web because he has yet again woven it from the hedge on one side of the front path clear across to the other.

On occasion, in our usual desperate dash out of the door, we forget his presence and end up flapping around in a crazy dance, slapping our cheeks and flicking our hair around trying to dislodge Fred who we imagine is crawling up our necks.

But he just watches us from where he hangs by a thread to the destroyed remains of his nightly work.

What on earth does this have to do with writing?

Well, the thing is, he’s become a bit of a guru to me.

Mainly because he doesn’t charge much. But also because after every destruction, he takes a deep breath and he reweaves his web.

So I admire his resilience. (While also questioning the number of brain cells in his head. Why doesn’t he just reweave somewhere else, someplace that doesn’t become a runway 8 o’clock every weekday morning?)

But I do try and keep him in mind whenever I waver in my writing. Because some days I end up deleting more than I write, dismantling my own web with great efficiency. And on those days when I look at the mess I call my latest novel and wish to throw up my hands in despair I try and take a deep breath and think, What would Fred do?

And I gamely gather the broken gauze of my web and start at the beginning, waving my bottom around and producing just a little more silk.

photo by photoholic1 (flickr)

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What’s a Novel to Do?

Ok, I have a question.

A blog popped up on Freshly Pressed the other day that gave me pause. It is called The Reluctant Mom and it is an extremely candid account of a woman’s post natal ambivalence to her children coupled strangely with an overwhelming desire for a fourth child.

But what got me thinking was not so much this interesting dichotomy as the complete nakedness with which she describes her relationship with her husband. and children.

Here’s a small sample of her About Me section:

“The arrival of this baby made me anxious, paranoid, depressed and severely unhappy.

But, and I really must say but, I was not unhappy with him – of course I loved him with that fierceness of a love that a mother feels for a her child.  She knows she would lay down her life for him at the drop of a hat – no the pain and the unhappiness I felt was for me, my life, my relationship and well pretty much everything.

I struggled with ‘bouts of depression that had moments of light relief and others with shadows of wanting to end it all.

I hated myself.  I hated the fact that I could not cope.  I felt dreadfully alone and I began to hate Kennith because it was all his fault – well who else was I going to blame?

I felt abandoned and angry because I was becoming more dependent on him.  Dependency is a very ugly and frightening word for me.

Kennith (sic) assisted by decided nothing says abandonment quite like going off to do a two year MBA!!

I decided – I, not we, I – at my darkest lowest point, that I wanted to have a second child.  I can’t explain rationally why, it was a primal urge and had all the makings of a breakdown.”

The vast number of comments on the blog were also breathtaking in their poignancy and nakedness.

Here’s an example taken from one of the comments which ran to almost, I kid you not, I counted, 1000 words:

“It took me years to find peace, I think the fact that cancer had taken so much from me – my youth and my mobility, and now here was yet something else that it had taken, my fertility and the decision of how many children I would have. I resented my husband for a long time for “making” me stop trying. I was prepared to try anything and everything – donor eggs, surrogacy, adoption. He felt we had to focus on what we had and not keep spending vast sums of money on my dream.”

It all left me thinking. What is there left for literature to do?

I always thought you wrote a novel by peopling it with characters who have a problem. And as they walk around the problem, or drive over it, or attack it with a sledge hammer, or whatever it is they feel the need to do, you lay them bare. With a slice of your pen (or keyboard) you open them up chest to belly and let their insides dangle out.

Essentially, you tried to get inside the head of your character and reveal it to your reader.

All in the name of good literature.

But how can you compete with blogs which tell, in great detail, that blogger’s personal life? With facts and photos and at the end comments which tell even more self revealing true stories.

I ask you. What’s a novel left to do?

photo by unprose (flickr)

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Fear and Laughing

Well, what a day and a post make. Last Wednesday I wrote a blog about fear and writing.

The next thing I knew I had over 5000 hits.

Turns out WordPress featured it on Freshly Pressed.

Of course, the perfect photo from flickr helped. (Thank you, p!o—I’ve added another one from the same photo stream)

Ff-five-thhhhousand hits.

That’s one five followed by three zeros. (Yes, I am doing lots of math homework with my son.)

And over 130 comments.

That’s one hundred and thirty people who took the time to write nice, encouraging comments. I clicked onto as many of them as I could and found so many writers/bloggers/artists out there in cyberspace thinking and writing and painting interesting and wonderful things. All ages, all nationalities. All positive.

Blew my mind.

And yet they all related in some way to fear.

It reminded me of what Tara Brach discusses in one of her online seminars: THE fear.

Not mine. Not yours. But THE fear. The one that stalks us all.

Because I think that’s what’s so difficult about fear. We take it so personally. We think everyone else is just humming along, eating their Wheeties in the morning and then doing their thing without a sliver of fear ruining their day.

While we wake up, glued to the bed, terrified of failure before we’ve even moved a muscle.

Well, it’s helpful to know we are not alone.

So what should we do with THE fear?

Besides caging it, starving it, pummeling it to within an inch of its despicable life?

We could try (and I know this is hard) ignoring it. Not give it the time of day. Let fear breathe its rancid breath down the back of our necks. Let it sit its fat gluteus maximus on our laps. Let it worm its way into our stomachs.

And just look the other way. Yawn with boredom. Eat a brownie or two (or three) if we have to.

But just get on with whatever we’re doing.

Trying to be terribly literary about the whole thing I thought I’d gather a few quotes on fear:

The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. Joseph Campbell

There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid. Wizard of Oz

Fear can’t hurt you any more than a dream. William Golding

Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed. Michael Pritchard

The funny thing was, I couldn’t for the life of me find a humorous quote about fear.

Which leads me to believe we’re taking fear a little too seriously.

So lets laugh at it.

That will really get its goat.

photo by p!o (flickr)

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Fear and Writing

I typed in fear and writing into the computer the other day. (Yes, it was one of those days.) and you’d be amazed at how much came up.

But this was one of the best.

In a nutshell, she says we need to stop trying to name the thing you’re trying to create.

The marketing buzz has gotten out of hand. We are trying to market before we’ve even created. And there are writing books that actually say don’t type a word until you know your audience. Don’t let a thought fill your head until you know who you’re going to sell it to.

A friend and I laugh about how it’s gotten that not only do you have to write a book, you’re expected to edit it, market it, and then pulp it too. You certainly have to know exactly what shelf it’s supposed to be on.

The stress and frustration comes when the mind refuses to participate.

It says Sorry, my gold does not have a price on it. You already whipping out your cost analyses? Well, I’m not morphing into anything sellable. I’m gonna bring all the woolgathering (an Anne Lamott term) to a screeching halt.

All those writing books are just like baby raising books. They are constantly refuting each other.

Best to just ignore them all and go with your gut instinct.

And don’t forget the love. That’s the main ingredient.

photo by p!o (flickr)

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