A friend recently made a comment that has stayed with me: “And on a good day our words can change those who read them.”
Some words I heard a week or so ago changed me. Or if they didn’t exactly change me, they changed my way of thinking about a particular situation.
A couple of weeks ago, I timed pitch and critique sessions at the Writers’ League of Texas Young Adult Writers Conference (not because I write for young adults, but because WLT needed timers and I needed to get out of the house and do something useful).
At Saturday’s luncheon, author Tim Wynne-Jones spoke on the topic of “Reading Yourself Seriously.”
Here’s a summary of what I heard.
Wynne-Jones says that when we write with intention, we write with genius. We may call it a muse, genie, goddess, inner writer, “or Brenda,” but whatever we call it, we work with a co-writer.
(Muse and goddess have always sounded pretentious to me; inner writer is too close to inner child, and she and I are too busy arguing to write; and I know only one Brenda, and she doesn’t write at all. So I’m calling my collaborator the genie.)
Anyway, the genie, Wynne-Jones says, knows much more than we do. And it leaves “text messages” in the story.
So when we hit a major obstacle and can’t find a way around it–we have no idea what happens next, or we’ve written ourselves into a corner and can’t get out–we need to consult the genie, to find out what message it has left in the words we’ve already written.
We need to recapture the “feeling of enchantment” we felt when we wrote the first page.
And we do this by reading ourselves seriously: going back over our manuscript, reading creatively, paying attention to the unconscious, discovering the “tool” that will lead to the resolution of the problem.
It means sifting through the pages to see what we really want to write about, “ooching the implications to the surface.”
Reading ourselves seriously means accepting our own genius. And our genius is the ability to accept clues, which is also “the reason we write in the first place.”
Now, when Wynne-Jones began to speak, I expected to be entertained and perhaps inspired. But I got something more.
For the past umpteen weeks, I’ve been stalled. I saw a potential problem with my plot, I didn’t know how to fix it, and heaven forfend I should try to just write through it and see what happened. Oh, no, I preferred to worry, fret, and whine.
Maybe this is the time to pull out whinge. I whinged.
Sad to say, this is the same problem I wrote about several months ago. At that time, my CP convinced me I could make the thing work. I was resolved to do so.
But somewhere along the line, my courage came unscrewed from the sticking post.
So there I sat, listening to Tim Wynne-Jones, and toward the end of the talk, it suddenly hit me. I turned to CP, another volunteer timer, and said, “I have to kill Miss Q.”
Miss Q. was the original victim. But she was just so cute, I decided to give her a slight overhaul and keep her around.
But the manuscript has been telling me she has to go.
I didn’t even have to read myself seriously. The manuscript had been shouting at me for weeks, but I’d been ignoring it.
I felt as if the genie were right there, sitting on my shoulder, saying, “Kill Miss Q.”
(Perhaps instead of calling it the genie, I should refer to it as the devil.)
There you have it: Wynne-Jones words, which were supposed to provide a little R&R in the middle of a busy day, acted as a catalyst.
Or like a slap upside the head. One I’d needed for quite a while.
I left the dining room feeling changed. A bit boggled, but peaceful. I possessed the tool to resolve my problem. It had been there all along.
Image of the Muse by Guillaume Seignac [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons