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On Writing

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December 2008
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OK, this is another one of those cases when I am procrastinating from the writing project I ought to be working on, so I will make this Owl about writing and its phases.  Over Thanksgiving, I wrote a great deal on my novel, and sorted out a number of setting details working on the floor plans of the school where it takes place. I’ve written 60K words but am feeling the need to pause now and take stock.  Traveling, sleeping badly in strange beds, bad air on the airplanes, and a few mistakes in eating left me weak and sick for a few days.  I still feel off balance but also still feel I am getting some good work done on the book.  Only a few hours today, but that’s better than nothing.    While procrastinating and writing this blog entry, I was interrupted by a friend on the phone.  I don’t mind, but such interruptions seem typical of my day.  That’s life.  In the pre-telephone days friends would have just come to call and one would have either arranged to have tea or lunch by letter or else one would have to drop what one is doing to entertain them.

Every incident of life, every conversation with friends or strangers shapes one’s story — both one’s autobiography and one’s fictional storytelling.  In a very black mood after going to a play Tuesday night, I fought off a deep depression by lying still and breathing and my heroine, Emily Glass, came to me in my mind and pleaded with me not to give up on life for her sake.  Not only my own daughter but this daughter of my mind see me as absolutely necessary for their story to unfold.  A flesh-and-blood daughter would carry on living, however changed by my absence, but a character whose story is unfolding in my own act of writing it, sees me in another light.  Dorothy Sayers made this very nice analogy between God and the author of a book.  She said that we experience our lives moving through time as a character in a book would do, but that God sees us as the author would — able to skip over parts of the timeline, to move back and forth in flashbacks or foreshadowings that the character in their world cannot see.  But the magical consciousness is precisely the ability to enter the mind of the Creator, at least partially, and see our lives from that Eternal standpoint.  To the Author the whole book lies open before the eyes in the present moment.  To the character living the story, its pattern and resolutions are unclear.  We can, living life, only have inklings of how our troubles and the setbacks we encounter may lead to the resolution of a story arc.  Only when our biography has been written will the themes become clear and when we pass beyond the veil of flesh, we too will see our whole life story laid out as the Author intended it.

So, for Emily, I rise up again another day, to write her life story.  No doubt the psychologists would say she is a part of me, perhaps my own Anima, my soul-image.  But to me she is Emily and indeed I identify with her father in the story.

So, on to laying out the threads of story.



  1. paulmilne says:

    Alferian, thanks for that. I too am in the midst of a novel – well, approaching the end, and hadn’t quite reached the epiphany that the life of my characters depend on me much the same as our lives depend on our Creator. Or that the views of each are similar. Hmm, worlds within worlds without end…

  2. executivepagan says:

    What an intense experience that must have been! I had heard the Sayers analogy before (it was in my mind when I wrote this poem, in fact), but never experienced quite it so directly as you have. I’ve certainly seen proof-by-absence before, where authors apparently forgot that their characters couldn’t know all that they themselves did…

    Keep writing!

  3. alferian says:

    Thanks for the comments! I could use a lot more contact with other writers, I think. It’s a lonely profession — especially when you don’t have an editor yet. I’ve been feeling particularly rotten lately and yet there are moments when I have a little breakthrough in the clouds and think more positively. One of the most difficult challenges for me, as a writer, has been accepting that I am a writer and that’s okay. For some reason, I carry around in my head a gremlin that wants me to believe that working as a writer is illegitimate — at least until you make some money at it. That is one reason I’ve been reading the biographies of writers — because when you see their writing life in the context of their whole life and all its troubles and struggles, then I feel more hopeful about my own life as a writer. The chief thing is to write because you love to write, but the next most important thing, IMHO, is to keep one’s hopes up about being published. It is hard for me to detatch the business of getting published with my feelings about being liked by other people. And as I have a pathological fear of rejection, this confusion becomes a rather difficult stumbling block.

    Anyway, cheers,


  4. rspiggott says:


    Why worry about it? If you feel compelled to write, then write! I think it can be as simple as that.

    And you are a darn good writer, so as Nike says, “just do it”! Time’s not going to slow down and wait for you.

    And I’ll be one of the first to purchase your debut novel. Keep us informed of your progress.

  5. alferian says:

    Cheers Kurt. “Why worry” is a very good question. Thanks for your vote of confidence. In my case, there is no rational reason to worry. It is quite irrational.

    On “just do it” as a solution, see my blog post on V.D. earlier…

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