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December 07, 2006


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From my idiosyncratic point of view, the "constipation" you describe is a sign of ideas that don't trust their keeper. They're afraid they'll never see the light of day. In our judgmental culture it's not a surprising state.

What I find works is to stop judging. Perhaps your writing seems amateur now, but how much have you written? 50 stories? 75? And how many words? Each of your ideas is competing for limited time in the limelight.

Most of my stories never saw the light of day. I wrote them because the idea seemed neat and putting it into fixed words was an interesting process. Early attempts were decidedly amateur. I had a hard time keepting a story going for more than a page.

The same was true for sand sculpture. Some days I'd get to the beach, make a pile of sand, and then this crowd of idea-horses would try to run from the barn I'd been keeping them in, every one breaking for the light and getting stuck. I learned to say "Hold on, guys. Take your turn. Not everyone will make it into this sculpture but I promise that there'll be room in the next.

In the old days it was one sculpture, one idea. Then, for a time, it was many ideas awkwardly grafted into one physical piece that looked more like a collision than a sculpture (see the 1998 pages on my Web site). And then I gradually learned, through continuing to make sculptures, how to lead several ideas to work together in one piece, and all the horses learned to play together.

Writing is similar. You can put anything into a story and make it good, if you develop the skills. The only way I know of to develop skills is to write, no matter how bad you think it will be.

Turn off the judgment, Lu. It kills, just as surely as a sword to your heart. Just... write. Once you've learned not to judge instantly and throw it away, you can look at the writing and ask "Did this express what I wanted it to? If not, what DOES it express?" Maybe there's an idea at the back of the pack that made a run for the roses, and is your real point. Writing tends to uncover new things... which may be another reason you're stuck now.

You have interesting experiences that will add depth to anything you write. Loosen your dictatorial directorial hand and let those experiences run. They keep their exuberant passion but lose the desperation that now makes them so hard to work with. You'll get to the point where you no longer need a sledgehammer. A feather's touch here and there will guide the ideas and the words that carry them.


Very insightful, Larry. You know me too well. I do tend to judge all my ideas and thoughts, and find most of them wanting. It never occured to me that might be the problem... you gave me much to think about.

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