Learning About Writing

The writing class is over. I promised my teacher I would write a review, and I will –when I can actually figure out how to write.

I’m totally stuck. I can’t put together more than a simple sentence with risky comma placement and a serious effort to not use these…oh, how I love these…so instead I’m trying to use more of these — which I read somewhere are preferable.

So I found Betsy Lerner’s blog . She wrote this amazing book on writing. I left a comment. It was pathetic. All of the other commenters were of the New York Times variety, discussing literary concepts with polysyllabic words and obscure author references. I think I used “OMG” to express my point. OMG, so bush league.

I found another blog from a woman in my writing class (yes, instead of writing, I stalk other writers). She’s in this new essay critique group I joined, formed by some women who took the class. Her blog has writing prompts. The most recent one is to write about citrus fruit. She instructs us to “use your novel words. Practice your metaphors. Use flowerly language, then be sparse.”

So I start: Lemons are yellow. Then my brain stops. Yellow-y lemons snuggled…(more ellipses…stalling for time…). I stop. Lemons nestled together in their shiny yellow slickers. Ugh, you have got to be kidding me.

I have no metaphors, no evocative language, no sense of smell (other than: lemons smell clean – see?).

In addition, I can’t decide on a broader scope what else to write about. I read this article in Writer’s Digest that said readers come to your writing not to learn about you, but to learn about themselves — to see “what’s in it for me?” I think this is absolutely true (even if this means using a useless adjective). As I look over previous posts, I see proof. My post on my grocery list – no one cared. My summer reading list — ditto. But when I wrote about depression, my second martini, my kitten dying, my husband losing his job, people commented.

What’s surprising about this? Nothing – except that ever since I read this, I’ve been paralyzed. I can offer you nothing. I feel fine (my back hurts a little), my husband got a new job, my house is a mess, my kids are bugging me. That’s all I got. My fruit bowl is a total yawner.

Even this post — why read it? In fact, why am I still writing it?

Someone please, give me your hand and pull me over this hump. Otherwise I’m going to have to go work at The Gap — if I’m lucky, because I have no retail experience.

Okay, no clever way to end this, er…I’m done.

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21 thoughts on “Learning About Writing

  1. In an attempt to get you back into the swing of things I think you should look through your blog and see all the wonderful comments people have posted about your writing. Take all the little wonderful comments people have made and remember what a great writer you are. If fruit doesn’t inspire you but martinis and soap boxes do then write about that, or pick a different fruit.
    You know that your best writing comes from inspiration. So find things that inspire you and write about that and forget about what other people think you should write about.
    You’re a fabulous writer and very funny. So take the time to remember all the great things you have written, even if it’s just a sentence or two, and go from there.

      1. You’re welcome, and I know you weren’t fishing for love, I just think that you should be reminded about how great they are. I find that we worry so much about what people think but the interesting thing is that we often only look at the bad comments people make. It’s so hard for us to accept the good comments and remember them. We barely remember when people tell us we are fabulous but some dig someone made at us 10 years ago can burn within us forever. I have a theory that if we remember the good comments more often than the bad comments then maybe life will get easier. Then maybe writing about lemons won’t be so hard.

  2. Nothing creates writer’s block quicker for me than a writing assignment.
    I agree with both previous commentators. Go back through your blog and get a boost from your readers.
    Does the topic have to be specifically about lemons, or can you write about the time you took an art class that used lemons as a prop but your painting ended up looking like it was a scene from night of the killer mutant lemon aliens… just made all that up but, if it doesn’t have to be a description of the lemons, maybe something circling around them would work?

    1. You just made that up? Dang, girl, that’s good lemon-y stuff. Yeah, I could circle around the lemons — but I also feel like I should be able to face my lemons head on. If I ever get a job and the boss tells me to write about lemons, I had better be able to write about lemons, yes? Ugh – too much thought, this is my problem.

  3. I love the idea of yellow slickers! I never would’ve thought of that! Your word choice always surprises me in the best of ways. One of the author blogs I read says to use “strong verbs” rather than relying on adjectives and adverbs to prop up weak word choice. I think you already do that. You always make me think that I’m a fly on the wall, watching you host dinner parties for your neighbors or drinking too many martinis [again–SHAUNA SAID YOU’RE GREAT!!]. Remember those bright spots and be encouraged!

    I can, however, relate to your dispair. I have virtually nobody commenting on my blog except for the people I’ve threatened or paid [kidding. sort of.] So what does that mean? A) people are lazy bastards –or– B) my blog is useless.

    Great. I right there on the hump with you.

    PS: I’d love to know more about your thoughts on your class and how helpful it was. If you feel so inclined, email me 🙂

    1. People are lazy bastards. At least this one is – but I’ll try to be better. I will email you the info on the class. I think you would love it. And thanks for the link below. It was excellent. I loved it.

    1. Oooooo what a great link. I love her blog. I’ll be checking it out regularly. Thank you for the meme. I’ll go check it out.

  4. When I think back on which posts of yours have felt the most evocative, I always come back to when you talk about flowers or gardening. Your love for growing things just shines through in the most lovely, luminous way. So think about the lemons that way. They aren’t objects in a bowl; they are something that grew and embody life and beauty. Maybe that will help.

    And be cautious about worrying to much about trying to write the way everyone else thinks you should. I am always disappointed in my lack of detailed, flowery description in my writing, but I’ve come to realize that’s just not my style. And I think it’s okay.

  5. Your writing is more than okay, Wolfgang – you sneaky little dazzler. I read your posts and think – how did she just do that?

    I’m so excited to hear from you. I’m sorry to hear you have a sick child and haven’t had much sleep. Thank you for pulling your head out of your coffee for me. (p.s. when I read about you being face down in your coffee, I thought – again – how did she just do that?)

    Okay – so what I love about your comment is that the essay I’ve written for the class was about my garden – specifically my hydrangea. So as soon as I read your comment I went ahead and sent it off to my essay group for critiques. Your comment was the perfect little push.

    Thank you.

  6. I think you are a good writer. And I like ellipses; I have been using them a lot lately myself. When I was reading your post, I was trying to remember this quote about writing by Fitzgerald that came to mind – I couldn’t find it, but found a bunch more that are great: http://www.nsrider.com/quotes/writing.htm
    (PS – can’t attest to the actual blog linked to there, though!)

    On why OMG is perfectly ok:
    “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”
    Ernest Hemingway, Quoted in: A. E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway

    And some other favorites thought of when reading your post:

    “If there is a special Hell for writers it would be in the forced contemplation of their own works.”
    John Dos Passos

    “Write from the soul, not from some notion what you think the marketplace wants. The market is fickle; the soul is eternal.”
    Jeffrey A. Carver

    “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in shock-proof shit-detector.”
    Ernest Hemingway

    “Keep in mind that the person to write for is yourself. Tell the story that you most desperately want to read.”
    Susan Isaacs

    1. Thank you for your research. I see a lawyerly argument unfolding here. Someone is quite adept at her research. I agree with Pappa – I know the ten dollar words, but these folks on this blog were in the hundred dollar word club. Thank you for your encouragement – now get back to studying!

  7. I’ve been trying to compose a comment to this for days. It resonates. Like the punk in the car next to me at the traffic light with the bass so loud my fillings are rattling (What. I’m old. I have metal fillings.) (Also, get off my lawn!) (Seriously, could I sound more crotchety?) (Um, BTW, that annoying resonance is NOT a reflection on your writing. It’s indicative of my own state of mind which can best be described as “self-annoyed.”)
    Holy crap. Feel better about your own comment yet?
    I can’t write either. I don’t have anything to say that even *I* want to hear. I don’t have any words of wisdom for you. Just sympathy. And a wee bit of envy. You have a fruit bowl?! (I am really not very good at being an adult. Adults have fruit bowls. Wait. Was the fruit bowl a metaphor? Ooooh, you’re good.)
    So. Sympathy via rambling. And now I shall end with a hug. Two, even.

    1. This is why I miss you so much. My fruit bowl a metaphor? If only I were that clever. Honestly, it took me like ten minutes to figure out what you meant (fruit bowl a metaphor…hmmmmm. Um, what does that mean…the metaphor is the other thing…not the simile, right?…oh, yeah, now I get it…or wait, do I?).

      Also – “Get off my lawn!” had me cracking up. Darling come back to your blog and ramble. I beg you.

  8. Jode, we were separated at birth, of that I am convinced. Have completed essay writing class of late and am back to attempting drawing class; both are tough and timesucking. Am endlessly bowled over by artists and writers. Latest is graphic novel by David Mazzucchelli whose work ASTERIO POLYP should get you “over the hump”. Your work inspires me. Your voice I hear. You’ve never left the attic of my mind. Your voice is clear. I’m thankful that my wavelength can tune in. As always, BL

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