On Writing, 7 July 19

From Little Summit on Mount Constitution

Every now and then, I reflect on why I write, what I love about writing, and what is true for me now.

Here’s what I’m thinking today . . .

I crave order, and I find order by working on a project. Sometimes writing doesn’t feel like the process has any order.

My happily ever after endings are never perfect but always satisfying.

New ideas glimmer like promises on the water’s surface, but upon closer inspection, most of them lack depth.

Depth can be created.

Layers infuse while revising. I liken this experience to a complex and beautiful garden or a really great meal. All the senses work together and the journey finds a trail and satisfying destination.


This is the time of year I love most (even if my allergies disagree).

A bald eagle in a tree near the North Valley Overlook on Turtleback Mountain

The birdsong and frog song, the succession of blooming plants, the longer days, and the shifts between sunshine and rain.

I’m finishing up a project that I’ll be sad to leave. I love the characters, the setting, the story. I’m sure I’ll be doing future revisions and edits, shifting and changing, but for now, I’m going to move onto the next big thing.

These moments of shifting can feel good. “Hey, I finished a book!”

Yet, I can also feel unsure.

The possibility awaits: wonderful and scary; exciting and daunting; a dash forward and a long pause. All those contrasts hit me, freeze me.

I’m back to the act of creating again. The pen to the notebook–



I found this disclaimer in the introduction of the mystery novel, Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers:

For, however realistic the background, the novelist’s only native country is Cloud-Cuckooland, where they do but jest, poison in jest: no offense in the world.

I shall now return to my own version of CCL. I think the name of my world is different, but it hasn’t whispered itself to me yet.


Imagination in the Real World

Recently I wrote a play review for a production of Love Song by John Kolvenbach. The play explores the relationship between what is real and what is imagined, and how it helps us find love and understand our world.

On a deeper level, the play considers that intersection between fantasy and reality.

As a child I often told stories because they seemed so real in my head. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t real. As an adult, I write those stories.

I read books about imaginary worlds, and a really good book can pull me into a world that seems real. This was true for me as a child and is still true for me as an adult.

Objectively, we can tell the difference between what is real and what is made up, but it’s fun to consider the “What if?”

The imagined world calls us . . .

As adults we may understand the difference between reality and imagination perfectly, but some of us choose to write stories, act on stage, make movies, draw pictures . . . .

We give ourselves a chance to enter that imaginary world.

Could a fairy live there?
Could a fairy live there?

After posting this, a friend emailed me a link to Mac Barnett’s recent Ted Talk on imagination and writing for children. If you haven’t heard this yet, I highly recommend listening in. Not that I’m telling you what to do or anything, but Mac is an amazing writer. I’d listen to anything he has to say:


On a side note, I’m still looking for that secret door–

The magic portal to something extraordinary . . .

Star Wars, the Force, and the Power of the Play

At a recent SCBWI conference, writer Matt de la Peña spoke about the isolation we feel as writers in our inability to experience or see readers’ reactions to our work. We can hope a reader identifies with our words, our characters, our stories, but we cannot be inside our readers’ minds for the experience.

I am fortunate enough to see another play produced for the annual Orcas Island Ten Minute Playfest, and I was able to experience something unique for most writers.

The reaction of the audience.

And, yes, this can be a terrifying experience.

The play was based on a simple question: What happens when a man cannot give up his childhood obsession with Star Wars? I travelled to a galaxy of silliness. The play was written, revised, and rehearsed, but I still had my doubts.

What if they don’t laugh? What if they think my work is stupid? All of my insecurities bubbled up to the surface in an unpleasant brew of doubt.

Every night I sit in the audience and feel my body grow tense as I watch the crew set up the stage. What if something goes wrong?

The lights go out, the music starts up, and the magic begins . . .

When I write a play, I try not to visualize what the finished production will look like. I’ve learned that what comes out on stage will be drastically different than my imagination. This year, what the actors have gone beyond even my best dreams of a perfect production.

The Team

I’ve never been a team person. I’ve always preferred solitary activities, yet there is nothing solitary about producing a play. I feel like a runner who passes off the baton (my script), and the other runners (the actors and director) take it on to the finish line.

The results? AMAZING

“Clean up this mess!”

The audience?

Yes, they do laugh. I’m part of a powerful transformative thing, for it is all the plays—writers, directors, and the wonderful actors, who make this Force come to life and give the audience a piece of something powerful.

So, as I prepare myself to go back to my writer’s cave and work on revisions for my novel, I have one more night to experience in this very public and real connection between a writer and an audience.

Thank you for being a part of the journey.

The Master of the Force, Darth Jedi

Oh, and may the Force be with you, always.