Copyright 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers Association. All Rights Reserved
Answers Come in Pieces--So, Hold On
Being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you.
Years ago I used to write down my dreams and think about their possible symbols and messages. Sometimes before sleep, I’d even ask a question and record my answer-dream in the morning. Occasionally I got what felt like a complete solution, but more often I was given insights that opened my eyes a little bit more – pieces of an answer. GPS navigation devices are similar; every direction needed is available, but because we won’t retain or even possibly understand all the steps at once, we are given only the next direction for which we are ready. The answer to getting where we want to go comes in pieces, next steps, small moves and turns – and all of that together gets us where we want to be.
When we teach a child to read we start with the alphabet and small words, not paragraphs, chapters, sentence structure, and grammar. The problem “I can’t read” isn’t solved with the title of a good book; the solution begins with learning the letter “A”. And when I write fiction, a scene sometimes comes, a piece of dialogue, or maybe a character’s quirk. Every time I look inward towards the story, I can feel the whole of it, but only see and hear parts. In writing, as in life, I can perceive and work with only so much at a time.
Though we often call solutions to problems answers, we don’t always think of problems as questions. But problems inspire questions that directly and often indirectly lead us to what we want. When I was in art school, my back started hurting so much I was seeing a chiropractor twice a week and couldn’t sit for more than ten minutes at a time. My back had become my problem. All I thought I was asking for was how to feel normal again when, in truth, my question was much bigger. More...
How Ya' Doin'?
by Cherie Tucker
It’s such a common greeting, like “How are you?” that people don’t really think about it, nor do they really care about your answer. But you should.
The most common answer to that how-ya-doin’ question is, “Good, I’m doin’ good.” What most people don’t realize is that they have just said that they are performing charitable acts.
Doing is an activity, and the question “how ya doin’?” asks how that activity is being performed, which requires an adverb, a word that describes how things are done. They can be done well or brilliantly or even be just fine. But they aren’t done good.
You can be doing good if you are building houses for Habitat for Humanity, for example, or curing a disease. But the question wasn’t “how are you?” If it had been, you could say, “I’m good” or “I’m well.” One answer is about your state of being, and the other about your health. more...
A Day in the Life of a Life Story Ghostwriter
by Teresa Stenson
It’s 9 a.m. and I’m on the train, on my way to interview Susan. It will be our third interview of the four we’ve scheduled: four 90-minute sessions in which we talk about her life and experiences so I can write her autobiography. I’m used to working with people over a longer period of time (ten interviews is the norm) but Susan wants a short, succinct version of her life story. Her book will likely come in at around 15,000 words.
I use the time to look over my notes. I’m concerned that Susan hasn’t warmed to me, that something is a little off in our rapport. In some ways she’s very open: she tells me about painful moments from her past with ease; but she’s abrupt, swift, doesn’t stay there long. The problem is that I need her to stay in those moments a little longer. I need her to describe and then reflect so that I can write as if I am her – because that’s what she’s hired me to do.
Today we talk about Susan’s third and most successful marriage and she softens as she tells me about this happier, more relaxed part of her life. By the end of the interview we’ve reached the present day, and this is good because it means interview four can be all about reflection. Knowing this isn’t Susan’s strong suit I prepare her. I tell her that the writing I’ve done so far feels a little stilted, and I know from the way she’s looking at me that she’s thinking something like: Well, writing well is your responsibility – that’s what I’m paying you to do.
I falter a little. She’s right. In a way.