The Real Writer, Writer's Anacusis, Further Cogitation, Thank You

So, four things to follow up on previous blog post and then Next Week on Argh:

1. “The Real Writer”: I screwed up communicating on that one completely. What I was trying to say was there are a lot of people who say a Real Writer doesn’t get writer’s block, she just puts her butt in the chair and writes without whining, and fine, by their definition, I’m not a Real Writer. I know I’m a real writer, I’m just having trouble with the voices, which those Real Writers wouldn’t let stop them. I communicated that VERY badly and I apologize. For the record, I am not only a real writer, I’m a FABULOUS writer. I just have this little problem . . .

2. I don’t have Writer’s Block, I have Writer’s Anacusis (which means total deafness which is not exactly my problem because every now and then I get voices). I can write non-fiction just fine, it’s the voices I’m missing. Although now that I can call it Writer’s Anacusis, I’m feeling much better. That sounds serious, not like whining.

3. LOTS of good stuff to think about from yesterday which is why I responded to so many comments (except the ones I liberated from pending because they disappeared before I could answer). I like Laura’s idea of changing things up, which made me think of trying to get movies instead of radio plays. That’s going to be tough because I’m not a visual writer, but it’s worth a shot. Also, everybody who said, “Maybe there’s too much going on,” had an excellent point. And the good news there is that I’m almost finished with the McD curriculum (not the lectures, but hey, that’s non-fiction, so I can do that later), and the house is with a month or two of being livable, and Milton is completely recovered and leaping about like a small, elongated mountain goat, and all my stuff is moved here, so by September, it may be quiet enough in my head that the voices will come back.

4. Mostly I just want to say thank you for the comments. That was such a self-indulgent, self-centered post that I was really inviting a lot of “get over yourself, you’re the luckiest woman we know” comments (and that’s so true) but instead I got great advice, even the stuff I couldn’t do, and amazing support. I am very, very lucky to be part of Argh Nation and I know it.

I really do hope the comments made that post valuable, and to make up for all the navel-gazing this week, I’m putting together a five-part series on rewriting next week so we can talk about craft for awhile because I haven’t given back much to this blog lately. (The Doctor Who weekends are because I love the Doctor, so it’s most fan squee even when I try to make writerly points about the episodes.) I wrote a first draft of a first scene for a novella I’d been thinking about, and it was terrible but that’s okay because hey, first draft, not supposed to be good. So that’s Monday’s post. Then Tuesday, I have the notes I made on re-reading it several times during the following week, pinpointing the most egregious flaws. Wednesday, you get the rewrite after my notes. Then I gave it to beta readers, and on Thursday you get their notes (and they were all fabulous readers, too, absolutely right in their comments) and then on Friday you get the next rewrite which has no juice, but it’ll do for now. Not the last rewrite because I can’t write the final draft of the first scene until I’ve written the final draft of the last scene, but it’s to the place where it’ll serve to start the story without causing me too much pain when I read it. As I said, it lacks juice, but at this point, I’m good with that. It’s a start.

So coming soon on Argh: The End of the Rose Years on Doctor Who–get the Kleenex–and a five part series on how I try to make really terrible first drafts into okay-I-won’t-kill-myself-when-I read-this, good-enough-for-now, third drafts.

And again, thank you so much for your support.

49 thoughts on “The Real Writer, Writer's Anacusis, Further Cogitation, Thank You

  1. “I’m putting together a five-part series on rewriting next week so we can talk about craft for awhile because I haven’t given back much to this blog lately.”

    You owe us nothing. We’re just happy to be here. And you know, that Writer’s Anacusis thing sounds serious…you should get that checked out 🙂

    (Hint–I’m pretty sure that the cure is cookies.)

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      1. Uhm, yes, what she said, “You owe us nothing. We’re just happy to be here.” And I like everything except anchovies and too much green pepper.

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        1. We had ice cream for dinner last night. And then fries and onion rings for dessert. My kids (ages 5 and 3.5) were in heaven.

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          1. Oh lord! I should do that sometime. Mine are 5 and 4. It would totally blow their minds!

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    1. Just want you to know because of your book, I have finally read a whole book. You have made me very happy that after all of these years (50) I was able to do this. I have a hard time to read for very long and I found your hard cover in Chapters one day. (Anyone but you) I am finding it hard to find hard cover book of yours. It is kind of nice to have hard cover. Do you think that you will be doing hard cover of your other books from previous ones again? I wish I had found you before. Anyway I wanted to thank you for showing me that reading your books are a wonderful way to enjoy my day.

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      1. Thank you so much, Marlene, that was a lovely comment.
        I think almost all of my books were available in hardcover at some point; if you go to Amazon and look at used books, they’re probably really cheap, too.
        So happy you read my book as your first one. That’s a huge compliment.

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  2. So many things to think about in the last post but not much to say on point. Off point though, maybe this would be a good time to say between your books and this blog I’ve realized that the books I love the most are character and dialogue driven. I have in the past just read, for escape, or distraction or because I couldn’t not. I didn’t really think about the how or the why of the writing. Learning about the inner workings of writing and (some) writers has been fascinating. It has also cut down on the books I am willing to read but that is just as well, more time spent doing other things is good too. So thank you, and the commenters at your blog, not only for the books that I love, but for the chance to learn about this thing I have spent so much of my life doing.

    Yesterday I was asked by my love about any other favorite romances, he’s read several of yours (first man to ask, smart man!). I realized some of my first favorites might not be interesting to me now. Some of those were for the sex that no one I knew talked about, and that I hadn’t learned to have. Having fixed that I find I want to read about lovers who have great community, work that they love, and fascinating conversations who also have hot sex. I can see now that I most enjoy reading about people who are changing their lives to get these things that I want in my own life. I really must stop thinking of myself as unambitious.

    Oh, and he’s more than a decade younger than me. I found your book, Anyone But You, right after I found him. It helped.

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      1. He reads philosophy and quantum physics for fun. He wants the glimpse of my inner worlds that reading my stories gives. As I wanted when I read a few of his philosophy books. We’re not a ‘match’ but we are sharing interestingly divergent world views. He does cook, just the one or two dishes but good enough to eat often.

        your post, and my comment too, could be considered self indulgent. I think of them as self revealing, that sharing of world views.

        After all, you’re not talking the ear off some stranger at a bus stop. It’s writing, on the internet. People choose to visit (or schedule like Terri Osburn below! love that) and then choose to read. And presumably when they have time for it. I often don’t get to read until well after people have moved on. Not today, today I am in serious procrastination. I am really hating these last few days of study for exams.

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  3. Jenny, it was a great, reflective post. There’s nothing self-indulgent about gut-checking. When you open yourself and share like that, others benefit.

    I do almost nothing on my blog but write about myself, my weight loss journey, my issues, slides and successes. I write it because it helps me process. If that’s self-indulgent, and I don’t think it is, then so be it.

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      1. From an external perspective, yours doesn’t repeat either babe. I mean hey, Writer’s Anacusis? Fanciest, high-falutin’est term for the Voices having gone quiet EVAR. That took time to develop properly, and I’ve never seen you use it before.

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  4. I read your first 2 points to my husband and he was thinking you might be able to get a handicap sticker for your car due to the Writer’s Anacusis thing.

    Anyway, also really glad to hear Milton is doing better and your foot is healing.

    Seeing as how I am a reader and not a writer, I’m enjoying your posts over at reinventing fabulous but am content whether or not you post, here or there. You have a lot on your plate and you owe us nothing. Enjoy the cottage, crocheting, and the pups.

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  5. Really, the Doctor Who posts are making my weekends these days, that alone is giving back plenty. But it’s YOUR blog – you write about whatever you need to write about or think about, and the rest of us will enjoy it.

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  6. Just read through the previous post and the comments. I don’t know why you keep apologizing for posting, but the comments were great anyway. 🙂

    Looking forward to the structure posts. Thank you for sharing – the posts and the comments were all really helpful and insightful.

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  7. Now I’ve added “make time to check Jenny’s blog every night next week” to my calendar. Thanks. And thanks for the previous post too. I’m still so early in this game, reading that helped me realize some things about my own process. Now I know why I have to write in silence. So I can hear the voices.

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  8. It’s your blog, you get to indulge in whatever you like.

    The thing is, even if you’re throwing a pity-party you’re still helping someone else out there. As people rushed to help you get unstuck, I got a few tips.

    Therein lies the power of a blog where “Thou shalt read the comments” is a noble precept.

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  9. I just finished reading all of the comments, and yes, some great stuff in them. I’d totally forgotten about your diabetes, so, definitely no alcohol for your voices. : )

    At the moment I’m doing something with a manuscript that Lani read (or at least a partial) she’d advised I turn it into first person and I balked because I’ve always written in 3rd limited. I’m doing it now. 2 years later. I’m a slow learner. But guess what, I think she’s right. The voice is livelier, the story energy is better, and my enthusiasm for that story has increased. How about that? I can change! Yay!

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  10. You are thought-provoking. You always will be. I suspect you always have been:-) Some of your blogs have hit chords that have resonated for hours.

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  11. I’ve thought of two things.

    1) Join a choir. Lots of choral voices. Got to be a good thing.

    2) Do this fear-love chart activity I found in a book. I filched it to use in antenatal classes, but then this afternoon I used it with Firstborn who is feeling conflicted and existential, and it worked a treat. Here you are:
    When we are able to step back and look at emotions objectively, we can see them as information. They help us understand what is working and not working in our lives, and are intended to make us listen. Emotions are not inherently good or bad, they just are.
    Most of our emotions can be traced back to one of two core emotions – fear or love – and within these two emotions we can be on the passive or active end of the spectrum. Here’s an exercise to help you tackle negative emotions by identifying and then reframing the thoughts behind them.

    This exercise is adapted from the book Building a Joyful Life with your Child who has Special Needs, by Nancy J Whiteman and Linda Roan-Yager.

    When we are in a state of active love, our emotions and actions reflect this – we are able to educate, advocate, inspire and lead.

    In passive love, we are able to let go, forgive, accept and embrace.

    In active fear, we seek to control others through criticism, manipulation, aggression or nagging.

    In passive fear we are dragged down by emotions such as resentment, being overwhelmed, worry and anxiety.

    Step 1: Reframing begins with an initial thought or statement – the thought that makes us feel bad, keeps us up at night, or leads us to worry. So, without editing yourself, write down any difficult thoughts or worries that come to mind.

    Step 2: Look at the Fear/Love chart (I’ll send a sketch). Into which quadrant do most of these feelings fall?

    Step 3: Of all the painful thoughts you identified, select three which are the most upsetting to you. These are the thoughts you can work on reframing.

    Often, when a parent is struggling to reframe a painful thought, it is because the initial statement is written in a way that makes It difficult to change.
    For example, a mum whose daughter had problems with speech wrote: “Olivia can’t communicate.” The book’s authors worked with her, first of all to identify the emotion behind the thought and then to check the literal truth of her statement. Olivia’s mum identified that her daughter could let her know when she was upset, she just couldn’t tell her verbally.
    Eventually, she reworked her initial statement to come up with this: “I feel sad that Olivia can’t communicate with me verbally because I am missing out on the fullness of communication I would like to have with her.”

    Step 4: Reframing can be tricky, so start by looking again at where your chosen statements fall on the Fear/Love chart. Can you think of actions you can take within the Active Love quadrant? Are you satisfied with your efforts in this area? Is there more you can do to educate, enlighten, advocate or support?

    Step 5: Can you reframe your statements to tap into the Passive Love quadrant by selecting words and phrases that lessen some of your fear and worry, inject love for yourself into your thoughts, and allow you to think from a position of compassion? Be gentle with yourself.

    Step 6: Write your reframed statements in the present tense, experimenting with several alternatives if necessary. If you feel some internal resistance, notice it and do it anyway.

    You may find that when you focus on your feelings about a statement, you find a deeper layer that you want to express. For example, the statement “Josh will never be able to live independently”, becomes “I am afraid that Josh will never be able to live independently” and may then develop into “I am afraid that Josh will never be able to live independently . I feel resentful that I may not get to enjoy a childfree retirement.”

    Step 7: Using your reframed statement, brainstorm some ideas with a good friend for things you can do which fall in the Active Love quadrant that would help you develop a more useful perspective on this situation. If you are already doing a lot of active loving that’s great – it’s important that you recognise and acknowledge that about yourself (Firstborn had a little snicker here).

    Step 8: Next, come up with some ideas for things you can do in the Passive Love quadrant to help you develop a more useful and compassionate perspective on the situation – and remember that many of us need reminding to be compassionate to ourselves.

    Step 9: Finally, look for the statements that resonate the most strongly for you and develop a new statement that reflects this perspective. It can be as long or as short as you wish.

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  12. Also, stop fixating on flying. I said BOAT. Like the original settlers, except in reverse. Horse-drawn wagon from New Jersey to that place in New York they all landed (what’s it called? Peri-menopausal brain kicking in here). Ship to Plymouth, little boat takes you into the Sound, hop off at the historic spot (now marked by many plaques) where the first settlers boarded the boat to the Mayflower, I pick you up. Then, either car drive to Yorkshire or I plonk you on a train to Devon which is actually just across the River Tamar from Plymouth. Easy peasy.

    Otherwise your dying words will be “I wish I’d listened to Rachel and gone to Yorkshire.” Mollie will slay the alligators.

    Big smiles here.

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  13. I’ve worried about you since your post on losing the voices and didn’t get a chance to respond. So I’m glad you received so many helpful suggestions ,and you now feel better about your writing. I just got my first contract after writing for, I’ll just say a lot of years. You are a terrific story teller, and you make me laugh. That’s priceless, and I thank you for it. I agree that when stuff settles down for you, your characters will talk to you again. I’m looking forward to reading the rough draft of your novella and the various stages of rewriting. Have a great week.

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  14. Whoohoo!! Good to hear you know that you are a FABULOUS writer! 🙂
    I wept reading yesterdays blog. I thought shit no! But I get the problem, I really do. Okay, I’m off to kick start my brain with a double shot latte and let my characters talk to me 🙂

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  15. Three into four years ago my husband suddenly walked out on a marriage of 35 years. He’d met somebody on the internet. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t do anything much. I just froze. Since then I’ve started to unwind slowly but trauma does that. I have to write. And I’ve always buried myself in other worlds inside books and I stopped even that because all I could do was to try to go back and try to examine WHY.
    Even worse, the woman is as ugly as sin and she babbles and never shuts up my son tells me.! She is everything he always hated. She smokes, drinks heavy stuff. And he hates noise!
    He lost intimacy with our darling talented daughter. Winner takes it all, that old ABBA song has been in my head since that time. And at the time I thought the winner was him and that he took it all. Now I’m thinking maybe in a perverse way, I’m the one taking away the winning. My darling daughter who rejected his new life.
    I’m slowly getting back to writing. The voices you talk of, have returned to me. BTW, I think those voices belong in the head of a natural writer and Jenny Crusie is definitely a natural writer… no matter what you think.
    Some very witty people live in my head. Nice thing is I can take them with me when I go for a drive. When they didn’t come, I missed them. But slowly they have returned and that’s when I can start to live again.

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  16. I missed commenting on your earlier post. I always read but I seldom comment. One thing I don’t think you mentioned is if you’re taking any meds. This seems like a far more likely culprit than menopause. I went through natural but premature menopause 24 years ago at the age of 36. I didn’t start writing until I was in my forties. I realize we’re all different, and I certainly had my own trauma about losing my femininity at such an early age, but I still hear the voices.

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    1. Nothing that would do that. In fact, the voices went before I started taking any of this stuff. But it’s a good thought.

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      1. I also missed commenting on your earlier post. I usually just lurk, because it’s not quite that easy to express myself in American English, I’m always worried it’ll sound weird. But I didn’t want to just be silent when you’re going through all that. I had complete writer’s block for three or four years, and stop-and-go writer’s block for another five. The stories only came back to stay two or three years ago. It always startles me to realize how unhappy I am when I’m not writing.

        George Orwell said this about unemployment, but I think it holds true for whatever crisis you could mention. “To write books you need not only comfort and solitude – you also need peace of mind. You can’t settle to anything, you can’t command the spirit of hope in which anything has got to be created, with that dull evil cloud of unemployment hanging over you.” (That’s from ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’.) I read this after I’d had complete writer’s block for about three years, and while my writing was still coming back in a faint trickle that would stop all too soon and produce nothing good. Man, it was such a relief to read that. It’s such a kind way to think about one’s inability to create.

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  17. This and your previous post have been so awesome, both for the thoughts that came from you in your posts, and for the comments, and your responses. It all goes into my brain and swirls around and good and interesting things come out. I’m glad it’s good for you, too, but I admit to being selfish enough to be happy enough that it all helps me. Then I’m glad about how it helps the other people here. (Is this coherent? I listened to bagpipes and drums all day yesterday at the BC Highland Games, and while I loved it all, especially when they had ALL the bands playing at the same time, my brain is kind of pulsing. Those pipes were used as weapons of war long ago!)

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  18. I found these two posts interesting and thought provoking. Fwiw, here are some kind of random responses.

    I like reading about other people’s creative process, especially the rough parts. As a visual artist, I find reading about other fields, such as writing, to be particularly helpful. I always get new ideas about how to cultivate the “juice” and the rest of it I can ignore without any pangs because hey I’m not a writer I’m a sculptor. I love Twla Tharp’s book on creativity for that reason.

    I was part of an artist’s group for awhile made up of different types of artists (musicians, writers, actors, visual artists) and one of the most useful things was trading warm up techniques / ways to connect to inspiration from different fields.

    Your post reminded me of an Ursula LeGuin essay (in Wave of the Mind) about how her writing changed after having her hysterectomy (that doesn’t look spelled right).

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    1. That’s supposed to be how LeGuin’s writing process changed. I don’t think she heard voices, but she had a similarly intuitive, just kind of happened, process that suddenly dried up.

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      1. I re-read the essay this morning (called “Old Body, Not Writing”) and it’s more nuanced than I remember, but it does address what you’re also writing about. A few quotes (fwiw and because I love them):

        “When I was young, I used to know that I had a story to write when I found in my mind and body an imaginary person…with whom I could identify strongly, deeply, bodily. It was so much like falling in love that maybe that’s what it was.”

        “When I am working on a story that isn’t going to work, I make people up. I could describe them the way the how-to-write books say to do. I know their function in the story. I write about them – but I haven’t found them, or they haven’t found me.”

        “The times when nobody is in the landscape are silent and lonely. They can go on and on until I think nobody will ever be there again but one stupid old woman who used to write books. But it’s no use trying to populate it by willpower. These people come only when they’re ready, and they do not answer to call. They answer silence.”

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    2. I started out in art (my first degree was in weaving) and then taught art for ten years. I use it all the time in my work, not just the information but the techniques.
      Because I taught a survey course that all the kids had to teach, I had to find a way to grade that ignored talent/innate skill. So I gavae three grades: One on design (how well did they use the concepts taught), one on originality, and one on craftsmanship. Later when I started studying fiction, I realized it was the same thing. Design is character, plot, all the tools. Originality is how new and different you can make old stories, how you put your own stamp on things. And craftsmanship is syntax, sentence structure, grammar. If you look at writing like that, it becomes less frightening. At least, being forced to take art was less frightening for kids because what they needed to do was laid out for them, and nothing was beyond their abilities.

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  19. I’m playing catch-up because I’ve been on the road all week. I still have Writer’s Anacusis (and thank you Miss Crusie for giving a name to my problem) and I think I can pinpoint when it started. When I went full time at work.

    I started penning music and lyrics when I was a small child. There isn’t a moment I’m awake that I don’t hear music in my head. I finally started writing because sometimes, the lyrics didn’t fit the music. They needed more room, more opportunity to fly instead of being confined to 16 bars. But when I went full time at work, the voices quit singing. I still hear the music, but the voices are gone.

    Well, that’s not entirely true. They’ve started poking at me to take a look at some work that I really love and maybe do some revising. They’re not chattering away yet, but they’re coming back, bit by bit. So since I’ve read ahead on your Cold Hearts posts, I think I might just pull that story out and take a good hard look using your questions and examples to see what I can come up with.

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