The Author's Corniche - 3

My corniche has a roadblock. A corniche, if you did not know - heck, I didn't - is a road that hugs a precipice, a route of great beauty and danger and constant vigilance. I find it cheery, minus the imminent-death part, because it reminds me of the coastal roads of my hometown. More importantly, it seems like an appropriate analogy for anyone who dares enter the realm of writing.

The realm of writing... When I say it like that, I suddenly picture the JAWS shark rising up out of my page while I'm trying to write. Okay, so perhaps writing is nothing like driving alongside a sheer drop-off, but the psychological impact of failing to write well can certainly feel like falling off a cliff.

Which makes a roadblock a bit of a relief. I have not been speeding along those dangerous curves lately, but rather leaning against a rockslide picking my teeth with a toothpick and saying, "A-yup...gonna have to wait for this to clear." I am being a lazy, lazy writer, solving my literary problems by ignoring the fact that they exist, or at least giving up trying to address them through the tips of my fingers.

I suppose I should be panicking, kicking myself towards the computer (and ignoring the siren lure of "Minesweeper" once I get there,) but honestly, the wax and wane of writing seems like a natural thing. Writer's block is a bit like waiting for the tide to come back in, not furthered by me jumping up and down on the beach flailing my arms and shouting at it. Relax, says I. No deadlines to meet.

Which randomly reminds me - they say that authors who publish one book are oftentimes signed on to deliver follow-up books within a certain time period, which is why second and third books want for quality. There are many interesting discussions in writing circles about how publishing, as a business, is suffocating the life out of good writers. Once you cram a deadline down an author's throat, the thoughts that should be allowed to simmer in the pot get suddenly dumped out al dente, underdeveloped, or scorched to the point of hackneyed cliche. ("Hackneyed cliche" is a hackneyed cliche, I have just realized.) The publishing world also does a disservice by publishing so many peanuts, making it harder to find the few almonds and cashews, but I suppose they figure if they flood the market with books they'll have a better chance at snagging a reader, and the peanut author is then vindicated in their life-long dream to become a writer, so everyone wins. I would rally for publishers to be much more selective, but I have a vague suspicion that my own stuff may be a bit peanutty, and so I'll keep my mouth shut. (At least I'm a passionate peanut! Even peanuts can have standards!)

Am I digressing?

Anyway, I did something absolutely fantastic this morning, something which I almost never do - I freewrote. It was an attempt to get my writing pilot light going again. Though I agree on principle with all the little tricks of the trade - the freewriting, the "artist's date," the morning thought journals - I almost never indulge in them, because I, logical person that I am, say, "Every moment writing something irrelevant is a moment I could use to work on current projects!" (And I jump up while I say it, and there is a crowd of cheering people in my head.)

But freewriting is such a lovely forbidden thing for a stodgy red-pen-loving grammar freak such as myself, especially since I was wearing my piratey eye patch on one eye. My other weaker eye inexplicably likes to rearrange letters on the page, great for anagrams but not so much for reading, and so I wrote with my eyes closed and it was wonderful. Oh, I get to indulge myself here on Fifteen Feet every now and then, but to write without the chance that anyone will read it gave me free license to do all those things that are so wrong, so deliciously wrong.

I used nouns as verbs. I twisted verbs into adverbs and then into convoluted unpronounceable adjectives. I strung pearls of adjectives into long necklaces, where the poor little noun was hidden at the end like a clasp. And the run-ons, oh delight! My paragraph sentences would have made Faulkner blush.

Ah, the naughty little pleasures of the freewriter. I suppose the real trick is to slap yourself out of it after you've had your fill, get your grammar back in order, imprison punctuation, and return to the real work at hand. Pesky....pesky plotlines.

I do love the writer's art.


starpilgrim said...

You remind me so much of my college friend sarahesperanza -- you should check out her blog ( You write so well... I'm glad you can't help but write. It makes the world a better place.

tizzy said...

Your way of waiting for writer's block, waiting for the tide to come in while shouting at it from store is so appropriate. I've not thought of it that way, but that a perfect way to say it...