Quote Wednesday–Keep Writing

Quote Wednesday Sept 2, 2015

There are days when I sit in front of my computer screen with fingers poised over the keyboard … and nothing happens. My mind goes blank, the story lines twist and tangle, the ideas that seemed so inspired as I prepared to write, drift away like a cloud scudding across the sky in a stiff wind.

And yet, as the quote above so clearly states, I must turn on that tap. I have to get that water flowing. I must write – full stop – no negotiation.

There are a few things I’ve learned to do that can help prime the pump. If I’m stuck in general, I might try some wild writing and see what comes of it. I’ve given this exercise to students – from grade 5 all the way up to fourth year university students. Write for five minutes without stopping. Write about anything that comes into your head, but no stopping. No rewriting or editing. No erasing or backspacing. That’s the only rule. No stopping. It’s a hard exercise. I’m often stunned at what emerges during these five minutes.

If I’m stuck on not being able to hear a character’s voice, I’ll write a lengthy letter from that character to another. Or, I’ll come up with a series of interview questions and put them to this character and type away at the answers he or she gives me.

If these methods aren’t getting me anywhere, I’ll go for a long walk or a stationary bike ride to clear the cobwebs out of my head, then try again. If I think the story is going off the rails in some way, I’ll revisit character sketches, stare at my storyboard and rearrange sticky notes, then try again. I might have to take a total break and read a book by someone else, then try again.

I think all of you get the message. Try again. Turn that tap on. Keep writing.

Colleen's Writer Quote Wed. cartoon

I’m happy to be participating in Colleen’s post chain once again. Make sure to visit her blog – Silver Threading – on Tuesdays to catch a compilation of all the great quote Wednesday posts.

Writer’s Quote Wednesday–Ernest Hemingway

Brit at Maple Ridge Dike - with Hemingway quote

This picture combines two things I love – my beautiful granddaughter, Britney (carrying my book)  and the inspiring words of Ernest Hemingway. Some truths are better expressed in fiction – right? And who among us won’t sink so low as to use a cute child to promote our own work?

For this week’s Writer’s Quote Wednesday, (that amazing blog brainchild of Colleen over at Silver Threading) I have to go with Hemingway. I’ve just finished reading an excellent novel that features the often enigmatic author – Crook Factory by Dan Simmons. The book plunges the reader back in time to 1942 Cuba as Hemingway sets up an amateur espionage ring to ferret out information on Nazi spies and makes use of his own boat, the Pilar, to search for German submarines. Enter FBI Special Agent, Joe Lucas who has been sent to keep an eye on the aging author. Through twists and turns and endless intrigue, Joe and Hemingway develop a unique relationship and Joe is the recipient of more than a few tidbits of life advice – Hemingway style.


This photo comes from a trip Bruce and I took back in 2010 – before I wisely succumbed to the newest wisdom that states grey is the new blonde. We ended up, by fluke, staying at a place in Idaho where Hemingway had often taken up residence during hunting and fishing trips.

If you are a fan of Hemingway, the war years, 1940’s Cuba, or the in-fighting between what would become the CIA and J.Edgar Hoover’s FBI, you might love this novel. I sure did.

Crook Factory Cover

Just a final note on author inspiration. It is said of Hemingway that he read all the time – newspapers, magazines, novels, nonfiction, draft works of other authors, letters. Stephen King has emphasized that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. Naturally one should want to read Hemingway. But do read Dan Simmons. I would rate his book, Terror (all about the Franklin Expedition) among the top ten books I’ve ever read when it comes to a satisfying ending. Simmons tromps across genre boundaries as if the very idea of such divisions are ludicrous. He has written sci-fi, horror, hard-boiled crime and my personal favourite – the artfully blended, historical fact and fiction novel. He plays it loose when it comes to various writing conventions, making up the rules as he goes. I don’t always approve but I love to be along for the ride.

Writer’s Quote Wednesday–A Sufi Proverb

Monument Valley with Sufi Proverb text

Newbie alert – I’m participating, for the first time, in Writer’s Quote Wednesday a feature over on Silver Threading Blog.

For years, I’ve kept a journal where I pen down meaningful bits of this and that. The cover is faded now but was once a colourful mix of pastel flowers. I have chosen this little Sufi gem from that journal because I’ve often found myself coming back to this quote. For writers, the truism in these few words imparts a necessary imperative.

At every single stage of the writing process, there are no signs saying do this or do that.

Sage advice abounds and writers worth their salt certainly read and study those posts, articles and books with avid interest.

Pantster, plotter or planner, point-of-view purist or head-hopper, cut your darlings or write a Game of Thrones type saga, shelve the first draft for months or go from start to finish without taking a breath – we take it all in and on some days the conflicting nature of the advice can drive us nuts.

When I face the blank page with my fingers poised over the keyboard, I’m on my own with the characters I’ve created. There is no rule that says they shall not eat stones. Only I can hear their voices and be true to the various stories they inhabit.

We owe our characters something that no one else can give them. So, learn the rules, read the advice and then throw it all away and listen to those voices in your head.