Monday, August 11, 2014

DIY Writing

By Pamela

Linus the cat keeps a safe distance from the Roomba.
Photo by Eirik Newth.
As I write, the TV is on (louder than necessary, I might add--actually, the fact that it's on right now and NO one is watching it is annoying), and I can hear a commercial voice-over telling me that my dishes wash themselves, my clothes wash themselves ... and of course, if I buy a Roomba, my floors will vacuum themselves. Tempting, I suppose, for some but not really for me. Even though I don't wash my clothes in a stream or against a rock, I do sometimes wash dishes by hand. I even like the process of ironing a garment (but don't do it often) and always mix cookie dough with a wooden spoon over my electric mixer. There's something about using my hands and seeing the result of my effort I find extremely fulfilling.

I suppose it's true with most writers.

But what's also true is that unlike clothes that wash themselves, dishes that wash themselves and floors that vacuum themselves ... books do not write themselves. They take work and effort and planning and plotting and rewriting and editing and more writing. And some of the most effortless reading you'll enjoy, I'll bet resulted from a writer who worked very hard making each word in every sentence just-so.

Joan, Elizabeth and I heard Ron Rash read aloud a portion of one of his short stories at a recent signing in Dallas. Lyrical, wonderful, seemingly effortless prose that he later admitted he had rewritten about 30 times.

His confession made me think of the short story I wrote during our most recent writing retreat--one that flowed with very little effort. In fact, I was in awe of myself, really. That from start to finish, this piece just came out. So smitten with the result, I immediately submitted it to a contest. Guess what? It didn't place. I made a few edits and sent it off to another one. And, drum roll ... nothing!

In hindsight, I can admit I didn't do the work. As much as the story seemed to flow, it didn't write itself. And while it might not need to be written 30 times, I can admit ... it's not quite there yet. Each word in every sentence isn't just-so.

Until someone invents a 'Bookba,' a device that will write books all by itself, it's up to each writer to work hard, hone his or her craft, and produce stories worth reading and sharing. Besides, I wouldn't want to read a story that didn't have the heart and soul of a real person invested in it. Those are the stories I want to read. And write.


  1. Pamela, one of my instructors at Sewanee this year, Steve Yarbrough, is Ron's critique partner. I shared in workshop last week that Ron admitted to revising that scene in the story over 30 times and Steve shook his head and said, "I bet it was closer to 80.... and I read every one of them." :-)

  2. That's so cool, Susan. What a great partnership they must have, and I love that he shared that with you.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...