Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Ultimate Writing Tool

Do you wish you could write?

“quarter of the population flow outword again, many of them victims of soul-grinding”

The cover of What It Is by Lynda Barry

Its cover alone is a plethora of images and thought provoking words arranged in collage.  What It Is – what is it? The best descriptor I could come up with were the neatly arranged words in the authors collage, written in cursive writing on a torn bottom edge of a yellow legal pad and pasted directly below the book’s own title, “the formless thing which gives things form.” The book in its entirety is designed this way, collage after collage, images, questions, phrases, words all there just sitting there on the page waiting for the reader to absorb. What happens when that kind of information is absorbed? Amazing things happen. It sparks thought, giving a dead spark plug new life or in simpler terms it unblocks writer’s block in the most delicious way. It satisfies the strongest craving; at least it did for me.

Cartoon of Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry gives us a powerful tool but it is not without consequence. Don’t expect to stay the same weight if you eat and entire chocolate cake in one sitting; as such don’t expect to do anything else but write if you take in thirty five pages in one sitting. I can’t seem to stop writing. I have multiple things to do, important things, like my weekly budget, food shop, balance my checkbook. I don’t even know if I’ve over spent this past week. But sadly I don’t seem to care that much about anything, except writing.

Last November I started a novel. It is my first positive start. I wrote for the entire month and at the end I had 52,700 words and the beginning of a story. I just didn’t know where the story was going or how I was going to map it out. I had no idea what path it would take. It was far from a finished first draft. It just did not have its form yet.

Then in December my mother passed away unexpectedly. I was crushed and I put the story away believing that it was probably the end a month’s worth of work. I couldn’t help but feel that I should have spent that time with her instead of writing. I wasn’t even writing anything that was anything yet. In the six months that she has been gone I have not touched or added one word to the story. Oh I opened it many times, I looked at it for all of five minutes and I closed the document, disgusted and remorseful.

Lynda Barry
Last night I took What It Is out on my deck and studied the pages and read each word not fully realizing what this would do for me. Sure the pictures were interesting but was this really a tool for writing? I did not even get that far to question this at the time. I pulled out my steno pad and my favorite pen and wrote and wrote and wrote. Then it clicked, I suddenly knew what direction my 52,700 words would take and my story was mapped in my mind. This morning I took those pages and typed them adding to my 52,700 word an additional 1,800. In addition, I had the added bonus a story that I would actually like to read, a story that is mapped and paved with a path with which to journey on. Coincidence or not, I don’t know but I’m going to go ahead and say for arguments sake that my day filled with writing is Lynda Barry’s fault!


Máire T. Robinson said...

Oh, I totally agree with you! I got this book as a present and it is the best thing ever. I absolutely love it. So inspiring!

Myrna R. said...

I must get this book. I need inspiration. Glad your writing was resumed.

beccagivens said...

I must put this on my list to obtain ... I love collages ...

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

I'm so glad you've introduced this book to me. I've almost completely written a memoir, but have gotten stuck in a rut. Perhaps this book may be my way out.

I'm so pleased to hear your writing has returned. That's got to be a marvelous feeling.

Thank you for the kind things you've said in your comment on my blog. It is my pleasure to meet you and I look forward to getting to know you better.

Catfish Tales said...

I used to teach writing but did everything I told my students not to do. So I stopped teaching writing. What a hypocrite I am. ;~P