The Best Essay on Writing You've Never Read

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Mel_Bosworth
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The Best Essay on Writing You've Never Read

Post by Mel_Bosworth » January 14th, 2010, 11:09 pm

If you shoot out the front tire of a car, chances are it’ll drive in circles. A scratched CD will most likely skip, and sometimes it won’t play at all. An unwillingness to learn a new joke will doom the teller to countless repetitions that will inevitably bore and potentially alienate an audience, or worse, the nice man or woman who shares their bed.

For two years I was guilty of this. Having written my first novel, I sweated and bled over revisions, and no matter how hard I tried, the car still pulled to the right, my favorite song on the CD still skipped, and the joke, questionably humorous at best since its inception, was now lucky if it could earn even the saddest chuckle. Sitting at my desk, head in hands, I felt cursed, and foolish. Then an old friend called me. He asked how the novel was coming along. I told him I didn’t know anymore. He laughed and told me something I’ll never forget. He told me to write something else.

A few winters earlier, I was wrestling with the concept of how to actually write a novel. At the time, I had no real focus, a waning confidence, and little discipline. But the lack of these things wasn’t all-encompassing in my life; I’d been a consistent runner for years. And one day, deep into an eight mile loop on a gray December morning, it began to snow, and I started to see things more clearly.

The loop was something I’d done on numerous occasions, and I knew it well. In order to better run it, I had to temper my pace at times, and push harder at others. On this particular day, I talked aloud to myself more than usual, and as I laughed and smiled through the snowflakes, my beard a cool, clumpy collection of slush, it occurred to me that this paradigm was no different for writing a novel. This run was like a joke that I’d told several times, and I knew where it was hard, and also where it was soft, and what I needed to do to make it better. Being able to see the course with some clarity was the key; I knew where I was going and what lie ahead.

The very next day I began what would take me eight months to write. And for those eight months, I made time, five days a week, to blaze a trail. Its steady progress and subsequent completion gave me confidence I’d seldom experienced when writing and the high lasted for days. Finally feeling strong enough, I offered the joke to a few trusted people, and no one laughed. Crestfallen, I licked my wounds for a time, and then picked my head up once more and began my revisions. Two years and at least three revisions later, the joke still wasn’t funny and I’d lost sight of why. Only after receiving one of the best pieces of advice I’d ever gotten did I begin to remember.

That winter’s epiphany of applying my running model to that of writing a novel had been enough to shove me through the process. However, unlike speeding around a familiar loop I could do with my eyes closed, I never fully grasped where the novel was going, and, consequently, neither did it. It was the reason it was never funny, although it came to be considered quite the “joke.” And yet, drowning in a concoction of doubt, and hopelessness, and blind stubbornness, I continued to fight for its meaning, but so clouded had I become, that its meaning would forever be lost to me. Then that one simple phone call came, with that one simple piece of advice, carried on that one simple laugh: Write something else.

Now, years later, I’ve done just that. The wreck known as my first novel lives in a box in a filing cabinet, quiet and waiting. I’ve written reams of work since leaving it there, work that has garnered enough support, praise, and welcome laughter to keep me pushing forward with my chin held high, albeit tentatively. What I leaned from the experience is that I could do it, but I could do it badly. I also learned that if I couldn’t see where it was going, or if I didn’t know what lie ahead, chances are I’d run smack into a tree. Lastly, and perhaps best of all, I learned how to listen.

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matildamcc
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Re: The Best Essay on Writing You've Never Read

Post by matildamcc » January 15th, 2010, 10:53 am

Great advice...don't get stuck in the first-novel bog. Move on..

Mel_Bosworth
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Re: The Best Essay on Writing You've Never Read

Post by Mel_Bosworth » January 15th, 2010, 1:58 pm

thanks, friend. letting go can be a good thing.

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Hillsy
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Re: The Best Essay on Writing You've Never Read

Post by Hillsy » May 2nd, 2012, 5:05 am

Rob Sawyer's additional rule to Heinlein's 5 rules of getting published.......

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