Dia(B)log

Harper Lee’s GO SET A WATCHMAN

I think it the neatest testament to American literature that the publication announcement of Lee’s second (albeit written first) novel was released to the world just as I’m helping my son cut his high school annotation teeth on To Kill A Mockingbird.  He plans to add the hardcover to his library.

Breaking writer’s block

Any writer has been there. Your weekly page goal is 125, you’re on page 110. It’s Wednesday afternoon. Nothing is working.

Over the years I’ve used many methods to overcome this inevitable challenge such as “get moving” (walking my husky four miles for the second time that day) to “getting out” (watching two women get in a hair pulling match over Italian pumps at a Nordstrom sale when I was writing Inflatable Men). For what it’s worth, I’ve discovered something not often, or maybe ever mentioned that works for me when “journaling it”, “speaking it”, or even “dancing it out” fails to help:

Go out of your way to do something nice for someone when you’re supposed to be at your desk, working.

Then as the satisfaction flows from your efforts, do it again.

That’s right, don’t wait until seven o’clock, do it at ten a.m. Which goes against the discipline of most successful authors – carving out your writing time and guarding it like a man engrossed in his favorite app. Maybe it’s the breaking of the schedule, maybe it’s because you remove the focus from yourself and/or your pesky fictional friends who won’t cooperate. All I know is it’s effective and you’re doing something to brighten another’s day.

After all, being a writer is a solitary and strange job. If fiction is involved it can be downright weird at times (one of the reasons I like it). Sometimes when the words or ideas won’t come, instead of grasping harder at our subconscious, muse, divine intervention, or whatever you attribute your creativity to, we instead need to look outward to get the relief and inspiration we need to get to page 125. Finish book number seven. Or face the demonic first page of a new project.

When writers can’t

It’s time once again to poke fun at myself. Whether it was auto correct or a flat out error, here are some of my latest, humorous type-os discovered while editing:

I set new time records walking that day, headless to the rain. (Kind of hard to walk without a head . . .)

She got her tempts after her sixteenth birthday.  (Aren’t all teenagers tempted by something at age sixteen?)

She shook her herd violently. (This mistake only makes the use of the -ly adverb worse!)

Stella’s rash isn’t the only think that stinks. (Thing? Or was the rash implanted by an alien with a mind of its own? Moohahaha.)

Should I fall to me knees in gratitude?  (I guess, if you’re a pirate.)

He drank a few bears. (And not a mark on him. Wow.)

The group acted clicky (Uh, cliquey? Had to be pulling a late night writing with that one.)

The wholly mammoth on his t-shirt was eye-catching. (Can you be a half mammoth? How about “wooly”?)

Robotic writing

Recently I was asked to assist a First Robotics Tech Challenge team with their community outreach project – a children’s book involving a protagonist with a mind for robotics engineering. Discussing their plot and character development I showed them areas where they needed to noodle a little more before working on their rough draft, and they reminded me why I love to write.

Such experiences also affirm my belief that as long as people take the time to talk/work through their ideas they can write great material. So often we all (yes, even writers) get caught up in the stress of making the writing fantastic. That if the idea doesn’t come out the way we expected the first time we “can’t write”. However, if we turn to the very people we’re writing about and talk/journal through their motivations, secrets, and problem solving techniques the story unfolds before us. It was neat to see these teenagers’ faces light up as they did so, and strategize the project onto the right track.