Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Use the Force

photo credit

There's a rumor going around that writer's are otherworldly creatures, connected to some unseen force that rockets ideas to our brains at light speed. Where else do all those boy wizards and time traveling whats-its and lords of rings come from? It's not like you can stop by the character emporium on 5th and Main and bring home three dragons, a hobbit and a talking newt named Earl.

The truth of the matter is, we're not gods of old reborn. Heck, most of us aren't even geniuses. No one stops us on the street corners or corners us in line at the coffee shop and says, "You're a writer aren't you?" If they did, I'd imagine they'd look kind of shifty-eyed, like they were in on some cosmic secret. We know one another by our furrowed brows, our fingers click-clacking over laptop keys at the book shop, the seven empty cups of coffee on the table at the cafe, the dark circles under our eyes. Others know us by those things too, only there's no sympathy in their glances. Most of the time they look at us as if we're untouchable - or smell funny.

So where do those ideas come from? Where do we get our super-human strength to stay up all night, type 10 pages between phone calls, revise a novel at lunch, and spend 30 days in November every year writing like mad a bunch of gibberish we hope will one day be a best seller?

I like to call it The Force. No, not THAT Force. I'm talking about the force that pulls us to the empty page even when we know we should be doing the dishes. The force that won't let us leave the computer until that last adjective is cut, sliced, hacked, and banished to hell on a one-way bus ride. The force that causes us to smile when we meet another kindred soul struggling with query letters, reading a tattered copy of our favorite book in the airport.

This same force also can hurl large objects amazing distances whenever we get another rejection, a scathing review or another family member telling us "I just don't get it". It forces us into the cold rain to walk for hours trying to come up with another character name besides Bob, Bill or Harry. The force that will stand stubbornly by and refuse to budge until our significant other reads our latest article and smiles while doing so!

It binds us to the pen, penetrates our veins, it holds our galaxy together! It creates worlds and rumors of worlds. This force, if left to it's own devices, can even cross our paths with agents, publishers, editors, or just a group of really groovy writers who get excited about another grammar book by Lynn Truss.

The key to all this fabulous force-age? Don't try to control it. Let it go, let it be as wild as it wishes to be. It's frightening, it's amazing, it's down-right preposterous, but we crave it. We need it.

And when we sit back after a blissful run with it, look at all those pages we just typed out, all those pencils that lie broken and in desperate need of sharpening scattered across the floor, we look up and smile. Because we know The Force is out there, watching us, waiting for the next moment we give it the risk taker's nod and it can blow us away with its genius.

It's a wild ride and I'm very glad to have you along.



  1. This really cracked me up...I almost have nothing to say except Bob is a perfectly acceptable name. :)

  2. Glad it could give a smile :) And yes, Bob is a perfectly acceptable name. You just don't want all your characters named Bob. That could get confusing ;)

  3. My oh my have you captured the force that writers have in common. Loved it. Even the smelling funny part and hurling large objects, and especially the long walks in cold rain. So, duly impressed, I read your cliff notes version of Jen Chandler and, please indulge me, but map collecting! pasta! Wrinkle in Time, bagpipes, OMG were we separated twins? pretty cool about the other stuff too.


Well, hello! I'm so glad you made it. Come inside and sit by the hearth. I'll take your coat and hat. The kettle is singing and there's cake and candles and good conversation. Settle in and make yourself at home. Don't mind the wolfhounds; they're friendly if you give them a bit of lemon curd.