Silent Words


I am not intimidated by the blank page. I am not intimidated by the blank page.


I drove in to the office today rather than taking the bus. Through a complicated series of twists and turns, the Curmudgeonly Lion got tasked with babysitting the Nugget (our nephew) and I promised to take over for him as soon as I could get there after work, which meant commuting by car. 

The morning commute was eminently tolerable: I arrived a full hour early. Since I wasn’t ready to go up to the office and I didn’t really feel like sitting a public area like the lobby, I crawled into the back seat and spent the hour working on my laptop on another chapter of writing. It was a chapter that I had started, written two or three pages, then wondered where I was going with it and immediately got mired in existential ennui: why does this chapter even exist? 

For a few minutes I debated deleting it. I even cut out the pages to see how the surrounding chapters would read without it. No. It need to be there, I just want sure what I was trying to accomplish with it yet. The more I work on this story, the more it keeps changing shape on me. I mean, on the one hand: duh, the very fact that I’m putting down text on pages that were blank before means that every new page changes the story in meaningful structural ways. But in the other hand, I thought I had a pretty good sense of what story I expected to write. I thought that I kinda knew the shape of it- it’s like going into the wild in search of an elephant *thinking* you know what an elephant looks like because you’ve seen the GOP logo.  

The problem seems to be one of scale: I’m on chapter seven right now, but I haven’t made it to my first main plot point. The characters are still dicking around trying to find a place to live. Hell, it took me six chapters to get all the main characters into the same city. Small characters are getting bigger and developing dramas of their own. At every step, a little choice keeps asking me “Ok, well now where are they going to live? How are they going to make money? How does this paperwork get signed?” Guys! I wrote a whole chapter about getting paperwork signed! And I’m not actually sorry about it: I think it’s a pretty good chapter with conflict and interesting character dynamics, but it’s about signing paperwork.

This is why I’m on chapter seven without actually getting to The Action yet. 

Again, on one hand I have to remind myself that I’m not writing a screenplay- as long as I’m developing the characters and keeping the story moving I don’t have to adhere to the same kind of lean-and-mean plot structure. On the other hand, I’m imagining myself trying to find an editor or a publisher and dropping a cool thousand page manuscript on their desk saying: “it’s my first try guys! It’s gonna be great!” Because eventually I’m going to want to try to strongarm somebody into publishing this monstrosity and I’m not looking forward to it. In the meantime, I’m trying to keep my editor brain out of my writing brain.

At any rate, the point I was trying to make was this: I sat down in the parking garage for forty minutes without any plan of what I was going to write that day. Some days I have a pretty good sense of what I’m trying to tap into, but today I was flying blind, but I still managed to unearth a few pages of an interesting new scene. I was, frankly, astonished. Where had that come from? But there it was. It wasn’t like the Muse had whispered it into my ear and I’d been overcome with the inspiration to write, I just kinda… did it. Without planning it. Without *feeling* it. 

So I guess my takeaway from this comes down to that age-old advice that serious writers don’t wait for inspiration, they just write. Because if I’d waited for inspiration this morning I never would have written anything. 

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on October 27, 2017.

One Response to “Silent Words”

  1. […] Friday I wrote this whole long post about some writing that I’d done in the morning. I waxed on for a while about how I […]

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