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Friday, June 30, 2006

A Story is a Promise

The thing about telling everyone you're writing a novel is that you actually have to do it.

A wise friend who occasionally makes jewelry pointed this out when I suggested bartering some website design. Once you put it out there, you don't just have the promise to yourself anymore. Suddenly you have to answer to anyone who happens to ask.

This is good, on the one hand. Having lots of people to answer to keeps me from getting stagnant. I can brag about the days I write ten pages (rare but exhilirating), commiserate when the muse is off gorging on the last of the Kettle chips and is in no mood to put out. I hate having to make excuses for myself when I fritter away my few writing hours. I feel not only the weight of my own disappointment, but the weight of all of those I imagine are counting on me to finish what I've started.

And there's the downside - feeling the weight. Which is one reason why I don't talk about my subject except with those very, very close to me (as in, I know what you sound like snoring), or my writing group, without whose sage advice this project would sink before it had a chance to float.

Another is that once I tell the story (by blabbing or otherwise), it's already out there. I don't need to write it anymore, because it exists. Writing would be superfluous. I learned this the hard way, letting the passion of conceiving a new story dribble out my mouth instead of my pen and losing a lot of great material that way. I've talked through two fantasy novels, a middle grade novel, countless articles and short stories before I realized that I needed to keep my ideas sacred, let them simmer in my mind and heart, pouring them out on the page rather than into the air to drift away.

I'm a bit of a blabber by nature, so it hasn't been easy to retrain myself. I still have to reign my mouth in at my writing group, where I often blurt out my newest ideas. Thankfully, it's less dangerous to set those words adrift when I have a safe circle of colleagues to help corral them back to where they belong - on the page, and moving forward.


  1. How very prophetic - I feel the same way about so many things. When in print you can't take it back, yet I have always felt about this with the voice as well. Which you'd think I'd be more careful in tings I say - ah haha!

    I sometimes wish I had never told anyone I was writing a book, because now I get "so how is your story coming along?" "Is it done yet?" "What's it about?" even to the "So do you have an agent?" Uh, yeah, I wish! I guess first I have to finish the dern thang..

    The other thing that sort of freaks me out is when I have read my writings over and over I expect people toget what I get, which as you know isn't always the case. Didn't you find that part hilarious? I used to prod. Do you get it? Do you get what he was trying to say? Um, no someone will say.

    And lastly, letting others into my mind is like opening up a wound or more graphically like pulling down my pants and letting everyone see me au natural. :D

    Thanks for reminding me to take chances.

  2. Hey, the first 100 hours or so of any project is all about the blabbering for me. I just blabber on in the car, while I'm washing dishes, if I can get any innocent bystanders to listen, I'm just happier.