Keep It Real

Playlist: To the right in the blue box

Heart Status: Thoughtful

There's something so winsome about true authenticity. Honesty draws me into friendships quicker than a wicked sense of humor (that's usually the icing on the cake).

The same holds true for any form of art. To see a dancer pour it out - leave it on the stage along with sweat and blood - brings me to tears. I feel the same when I hear music that's undeniably pure - Miles Davis and his horn - or singers who infuse written words with their own vulnerability - think Billie Holiday or Corinne Bailey Rae.

I was given the book Love Story by Erich Segal as a senior in high school. I read it in one fell swoop, lying on my couch, and I cried so hard I had a pool of water in the indention between my collarbones when I was finished.

You ever have those moments when you are overwhelmed, overrun, overfull of emotion? You have to get it out, whether it be joy or sorrow or anger or what have you, but all that emerges is a primordial screech?

No? Only me?


Still, that's how I want my writing to make people feel. I don't like making people sad (I don't like to be sad), but to grasp true happiness, sadness has to be part of your story. Not just your written story, but YOUR story, the story of your life. If you don't struggle to win the prize, do you value it as much as you should when it's finally yours? The same holds true for writers and our fictional babies. Some wise writer-type once said the best way to write a great story is to get your protagonist up a tree and throw rocks at her. (props to James Scott Bell)

I've come to realize that I've thrown some rocks at Emerson, but they could have been bigger and sharper. I've not made things as bad as they could be and I must. Because I know my girl (it's hard to birth a fully grown teenager, BTW), and she'll come out of it with flying colors. And my story will be all the better for it.

Now, I'm off to do the work to make sure those colors are as honest and bright as they can be.

Happy Memorial Day. Remember those who died for your right to live your story. Live it well.


  1. Yeah, keep it realz. That's all the comment I have this morning. I'm not quite awake yet. Zyrtec fog.

  2. I know just what you are talking about, Myra. The problem is that our writing has to be more than real, it has to be super-real. Real to the degree that it leaps off a very blank, impersonal printed page and grabs the reader by the emotional throat.

    I was expressing my frustration about this recently to someone. Another writer, in fact. I was saying how I have this vision for what I want the book to be, and for how it will affect people.

    This well-meaning person said, "But it's your first book! It's not going to be what you want it to be. Why don't you just focus on getting it published?"

    Because I don't want to publish anything I'm ashamed of! At the very least, let me try to fix everything I can see is wrong, so that the criticisms I get are for things I didn't anticipate.

    I think it is true, too, however, that as authors, we have spent so much time with our ideas that they seem blase' to us, whereas readers who are encountering our stories for the first time are much more impressed than we are.

  3. Good thoughts. Thanks for the shout out. Throw them rocks. Your protag will be all the stronger for it at the end.

  4. April, I tried Zyrtec. Really tried it, for months at a time, repeatedly. Cut the pills in half. Finally gave up!

    I feel for you. There is not enough caffeine in the world to dispel that fog.

  5. *grins* And those are some sharp rocks you've got. I remember when the light went on for me last summer (as I suppose it must for every book) and I realized what button I HAD to push, even if it killed Alexa. Much better book because of it.

    And Christine, that was pretty lazy advice your fellow writer gave you. Kudos to you for realizing that every work should be your absolute best, regardless of whether it gets published. The lessons learned on craft by pushing yourself are invaluable, no matter how long it takes to see your name embossed on a cover.

  6. Actually, this other writer was my mom. I think she was trying to light a fire under me, to get me to stop procrastinating and just finish it.

  7. Good thoughts. Thanks for the shout out. Throw them rocks. Your protag will be all the stronger for it at the end.


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