Sunday, January 15, 2006


A master storyteller, Stephen King has also written a great non-genre-specific book for writers entitled On Writing. One of my favorite quotes is this one: "Talent is a dull knife." Today, do something to sharpen your knife -- read a book on writing, read a great story or poem, or sign up for a class.


  1. When do you most feel the need to write? When you're sad, or when you feel joy? Do you notice a difference in how easily the words surface?

    Some questions that come from searching for a "voice".

  2. For me, it's definitely the more complicated feelings of love/loss/longing/disappointment that bring on the muse. I think with joy I want to experience it rather than write about it. The feelings on the other side of the spectrum make me want to think and write and imsgine and I think ultimately figure it all out.
    What about you? What feelings keep popping up?

  3. I more often feel moved to write when I feel ... well ... lost is the best way to say it. Certainly it's associated with sadness but also sometimes a questioning of life I guess. The problem is that when I reread what I've put down, it seems trite or self-pitying and I end up embarrassed rather than sorted out. Thus, my questions about finding a "voice".

    It's a question of how to paint your thoughts and make sense of them and then, ultimately, to share that with someone.

    I've been trying something new - as I'm out and about I look at the people I pass and notice when someone in particular catches my attention. I watch for a minute and then later make up a story (or even just a character study) about them based on what my intuition told me. Sometimes I find that what my imagination creates for strangers expresses something I needed to voice about myself or my life.

    Still, in the end I find myself wanting and even needing to write, but often having nothing really to say, or at least nothing worthy of sharing. =)

  4. It could be one of those "like a butterfly" things.... probably voice emerges when you're not actively pursuing it. Best thing you can do is keep on keepin' on.
    I love the idea of writing about strangers... just remember, you're your own worst critic... when you start feeling like you've got nothing worth writing about, remember you are the only one with your exact set of experiences, which makes your viewpoint unique. Billy Collins writes about some of the most ordinary things, and he was once U.S. Poet Laureate. It's your take on the ordinary things that matter -- show us a way of looking at something that we haven't already seen.
    Another tip: if what you've written seems self-pitying or embarrassing, try putting in some distance. Like, if it's in first person, use one of those strangers you've seen and make it third person. Sometimes it's easier to be honest (and it doesn't seem self-pitying) when you get rid of that "I." Good luck, and I'd love to see some of your work! (email address is on my webpage, if you ever want to share.)

  5. Your questions, Anna, prompted me to look through all my poems to see if there is a thread . . . I think CHANGE ties them all together. Contrasting moments that rub against each other seems to be a theme, realizations that something is gone or different. I think that is why my recent move prompted so much writing for me. Hemingway said he could only write about Paris here and vice versa. Distance helps the writing - what do you think about that idea?

    Anyway, I like your character study technique, and will try that today. I also think that we all tend to think we have nothing to say, but when we start writing we get past that and something else comes out. When I keep a journal, I look back at what I wrote months later and find pockets of poems. So I make myself not doubt or judge what I write before it is written . . . does that make sense?

    Thanks for the thought-provoking question to start my day!


  6. JB - When I was a little girl, my parents traveled as part of their jobs. I often found myself alone and new to everyone and everything. I was afraid of getting lost, not being able to find my way back to the bus, and way too shy to ask anyone where I belonged. So, I started the habit of marking remembering spots, creating a little road map to show me where I was and where I had been and where I needed to go. Kind of like Hansel and Gretel maybe. Maybe your writing is like that. When changes come, you don't want to lose your place and what you collected while you were there.

    I love your advice about distance. Maybe that's the key I need to feel more free to say what I need to say.

    Irene - Thanks so much for your offer to look at my work! I will take you up on that. I rarely share my writing with anyone and I think an objective view might help me get the distance I need.

    Irene and JB - Here's my character study for today: As I was turning left at a traffic light, I decided to pick a person waiting at the light. I saw a man in a dusty pick-up truck, his arm draped across the back of the seat. He was alone and wore a beat-up old ball cap. I tried to imagine what he might be thinking about, where he lived, what he was most afraid of, what annoyed him most about his wife and if he missed his mother. The possibilities for a story (and humor!) were endless. :)

  7. I also want to thank you both. Your blogs have given me so much to think about and a different approach to writing. I like the "assignments" and I enjoy the moments of living vicariously through both your poems.


Your thoughts?