The painter stares at the canvas waiting for an image to appear. Patiently, he waits until a faint imprint of a landscape or a face emerges. He then grabs a brush and dabs it into the paint on his palette, making haste to reach the canvas with his brush to capture the image. The artist contrasts shade and light. He tightens or increases space. His brush moves rhythmically or scratches across the linen to make the colors and texture warm or cool. The work he renders leaves the viewer feeling airy or heavy.
That’s how I feel when I write. I stare at a blank page as though something secret lay hidden deep within the fibers and emptiness, that by patiently waiting will reveal itself to me. So I wait…until a word, a phrase, or a picture appears.
Could it be that the blank screen or journal page is a powerful mirror able to enlighten my own ideas and thoughts? Is it I who write on the paper; or does the paper draw out what is inside of me?
My words pour out and my hand races across the page. My mind tries to keep up with both for they seem to move of their own volition depicting moments dark and light. Paragraphs heavy laden with emotion yield and give way to joy and humor, while spacing slows or hurries the reader along.
Finished, I sit back exhausted and, ignoring my headache, I read what I wrote. Awestruck, I ask, “Where did this come from?”
My trembling fingers turn the leaf to uncover a new blank page and my sweaty palm smooths the journal sheet flat. Pen in hand, I sit ready to capture another treasure. My eyes dilate seeking and waiting for new wonders to behold.
See you next time on May 22nd.
Manager, Educator, and former High School Social Studies teacher, Veronica credits her love of history to the potpourri of cultures that make up her own life and to her upbringing in diverse Brooklyn, New York. Her genres of choice are Historical Fiction where she always makes new discoveries and Children’s Picture Books because there are so many wonderful worlds yet to be imagined and visited. She currently resides in Macungie, PA.
When was the last time you wrote anything in longhand? Jotting a note, shopping and to-do lists don’t count.
Since writing, no matter what tool we use, is the expression of ideas does the tool you use affect those ideas? If you write out your novel in longhand would the creative process be the same as if you’d clicked it out on a keyboard? Would it be the same story?
Reams have been written (by hand or keyboard?) about the cognitive difference between the two methods. I’ve read articles by neuroscientists who point out the different mental skills each requires; a keyboard is automatic once you’ve learned where each key is and that makes it fast enough to capture a word the second it pops to mind, while handwriting is linked to the creative part of the brain, problem solving and critical thinking. And it takes a bit more time, time for your brain to make more sense of those rapid-fire thoughts. But there’s no denying the ease of the keyboard.
Cursive isn’t taught in schools much anymore so it’s pretty clear we favor the keyboard over pen and paper. Cursive handwriting, where the pen is not raised between characters, has been replaced with learning to use a qwerty keyboard. Are there advanced classes covering the various methods of texting — thumbs versus one-fingered hunt and peck? I could do with that.
A friend of mine died recently. It wasn’t quick or unexpected. I sat down to my keyboard and in 15 minutes clicked out a letter to her husband. There was a lot I wanted to say in as few words as possible and I hoped the words would bring him some comfort. It wasn’t right at all. By the third draft I realized the words might as well have come from Miss Mourning’s Official Book of Sympathy Letters. My words felt clinical. That’s when I took up pen and paper.
I don’t know if it was the weight of the pen in my hand, the feel of the paper or the sight of the words mirroring my thoughts as they appeared beneath my hand. Maybe it was the time the act of writing allowed me to consider before the thoughts appeared as words, but the first handwritten attempt was exactly right. The words were genuine and personal and I knew they would touch my friend’s husband in a good way.
There have been thousands of wonderful writers since the advent of the typewriter — the first keyboard. It’s obvious that the method hasn’t harmed creativity. I do wonder if the works of Louisa May Alcott or Dickens would have been different if they’d had Microsoft Word. (I suspect they’d have loved it for the revisions alone.) Of course there are those contemporary authors like Joyce Carol Oates, who only write in longhand. George R.R. Martin is another. He must have developed Olympian hand muscles by now. The pen trumps the keyboard for some mighty talented writers.
I’m sharing these wandering thoughts because I did learn a lesson with that letter. If you find yourself stuck over a scene, uncertain where to take a plot or floundering over some critical dialog, take up pencil and paper and write it out by hand. There’s a more direct, more personal connection to heart and mind that may well help the right words flow – provided you’ve been taught cursive.
The other day I came home to find the men I hired to build my patio sitting in my backyard looking at a stump. This was not a normal stump. This was a giant. Paul Bunyan, Big John kind of stump. I sat down with them and I, too, considered the stump.
“George had to get his chain saw for that sucker,” one of them finally said.
“Took two hours to get it out,” another offered.
“I think it broke George’s saw,” the first chimed in.
“Why didn’t you leave it in the ground,” I asked. “You know, pour the cement around it?”
“We thought about it,” the third said. “It wouldn’t have been right.”
They told me that they had managed to cut it up into the piece we were looking at but that it had been twice as big and buried deep in the ground; a remnant of a primordial tree. Their task had been Herculean. They told me that if they poured the cement over the stump, the darn thing could rot and my steps would fall in, and I would be upset with them because they had poured cement over a stump the size of San Francisco.
“It looks petrified,” I said. “How many years do you think it would take to rot?”
The first guy shrugged, “Twenty. Thirty years.”
I shrugged back. I would probably be dead by the time the stump rotted and my stairs fell in. I guess it was the principal of the thing. They would have known the stump was there.
We sat in the hot sun a while longer. Someone suggested carving the stump into the likeness of the contractor. I liked that idea but no one knew how to carve. I thought we could make it into a table. Eventually, we all stopped looking at the stump. The men moved it out of the way and started work again; I went inside to make dinner.
That stump has now been in my backyard for months. I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. But, like all things that are hard to get rid of, it eventually served a purpose. It taught me a few lessons:
1) Everybody has a stump. It might be in your real backyard, your professional backyard or your personal backyard, but it is undoubtedly there.
2) What you do with your stump will tell you a lot about yourself. Either you will dig it up and deal with it, or you will leave it to rot.
3) If you’re stumped and need help there is always someone willing to work hard with you to take care of it as long as you work as hard as they do.
4) You can never go through a stump but don’t panic. You can go around them, over them and sometimes even under them but that takes the longest.
5) Sometimes stumps are not as big as they look and sometimes they are bigger. Size doesn’t matter. Stumped is stumped.
SECRET RELATIONS, book #3 of the Finn O’Brien Thriller series is available now.
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What makes you a writer? Is it the act of picking up a notebook or sitting at the computer and filling a blank page? The desire to put the fantasies in your head on paper? Does it happen when other people read your work? Or when you see your work in print? How about when you’re paid for your writing? Is it a writing degree? What makes you a writer? And are you a writer even if you feel like everything you write…well, it sucks?
I’m pretty sure I’ll never feel like I’m A Writer. I mean who the heck am I to call myself writer? I’m certainly no Anne Rice, or Danielle Steele, but I know that nothing can keep me from writing. I eventually turned nearly every ‘real’ job I had into a writing job.
I was hired as a secretary for the marketing director of a luxury automobile accessory catalog company. Catalog copy crossed my desk every day, eventually I started writing my own copy and putting it on her desk, and before long, I was writing most of the new product copy that was written in house.
Later I worked for a high end furniture store in customer service and began an employee newsletter. Then I worked in human resources for a medical staffing company and wrote an employee handbook, a newsletter and a television infomercial. I worked as a receptionist at an advertising agency where I slowly started writing television commercials instead of answering phones.
And eventually I freelanced for magazines and wrote regular columns in four different publications.
My first fiction released in February! Such an amazing feeling, but I still can’t say that I feel like a Real Writer.
So what does it take? What makes you a Writer? Does it even matter? At this point I’m pretty sure that no matter what else I do in my life, I’ll always write. Maybe when I see my book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble I’ll know I’m a writer, or if I’m lucky enough to make a best sellers list. In the meantime, I’ll just keep writing.