Sunday, January 16, 2011

Write Bravely


I sometimes find that the stories I want to tell are utterly inaccessible. The stories are there, I can feel them-- but at times it seems these stories are locked up somewhere deep inside. In my mind's eye, there's a closed door behind which are all the the things I want to say. But accessing these things is difficult, because (it's silly, but this is the image that pops into my head) there are several doorknobs on this door, and I don't know which one to turn. I could simply try each doorknob by turn, and get somewhere. But I have cold feet. I also fear that the story I might find on the other side of the door may be bigger than I can deal with. Maybe this is the original causal factor in my perceiving  a locked door. I'm afraid to tell my stories.

It's not always like this. Sometimes I'll sit down with a germ of a story and it unfolds in my notebook with purpose and clarity. Sometimes characters are quickened from the ether, coming to life at the tip of my pen. At these times, I feel free, uninhibited. At these times, too, I think I come to writing differently. I come at it as I should, with little or no impulse to write well. I just want to write.

But the stories behind the door? Those are the stories I'm reserving for the Great American Novelist in me to tackle. It's true--I'm waiting, quavering, unwilling to approach them, because these stories are the ones that must be, so I think, written perfectly.

You may all call me on my bullshit, now.

The moral of the story can be summed up in a series of platitudes: "To err is human." "Live and let go." etc.
But I like what Bill Stout says most. He puts it in context and it's utterly simple:

"Whether or not you write well, write bravely."


  1. Lou, I totally hear you, and I don't think it's bs at all! I am the same way, even down to the door imagery (mine differs in details, however); I'll have to write about it myself, I guess. I think the biggest obstacle to writing is fear, plain and simple. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of reactions by people we love (or people we don't, depending on the circumstance). Conquering fear is the first step to conquering our stories.

  2. And I know this all too well. When I do just let go, I find I write exactly what I want to write. It's that assumption that the writing must be pristine that is paralyzing. The writing does NOT need to be pristine. It just has to be real. Some great author said that while he was a poor writer, he was an excellent re-writer. There's something to be said for the merits of revision. More importantly, however, I need to come to terms with the fact that nothing is going to be absolutely perfect. If I don't write what I originally intended, I must simply try again. I know that in the repeating there are new discoveries to be made. Still, I struggle, because I think that if I don't write something well the first time, it simply means I'm a bad writer. Silly. But there it is: the insecurities of a writer.

  3. I get this! It is the feeling of being completely open. Exposed. There is danger there, but the complete compulsion to do it with reckless disregard. I say go with your compulsion it is the only way to be happy.

    Thanks for the kind comment today. :)

  4. Valerie, you are most welcome! I didn't say this in my comment, but I cried when I read that post. You have a gift for description and for keeping it real and raw!

    I hope we can continue to share our work in the future!



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