Silencing the Babble

Though I've rarely delved deep into writing advice, it seems as if I am always hearing snippets of advice from out of nowhere: Show, don't tell. Strong dialog sells. Don't get into too many people's heads! Adverbs are the devil incarnate. Write what you know. Write what you don't know. Eliminate all passive voice. Pay attention to rhythm, sentence length, the tone of your voice. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. It's that old adage: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Anne Lamott writes about a lovely little radio station called KFKD (not going into what that stands for). It is constantly bombarding the airwaves with negative vibes, criticism, and self-doubt. Authors can tune in at any time to hear the lovely strains of despair and defeat. I hate that station, but for some reason my brain's internal dial feels compelled to turn there.

I don't trust myself to write well. I never think I'm good enough. I probably need to be an mathematician: a job where when you're done, you're done. You don't have to wonder if you did a "great" job or not, it's not subjective. But the creative side of me balks at that. It wants to create something so beautiful that it sings, so different that it touches people and makes them want to imagine. Something that must necessarily be subjective.

I know that if I'm going to write I'll have to silence that stream of hate-speech targeted at my work. I have to suck it up and turn off KFKD radio, then glue my fingers to the keyboard. I'm like so many other authors: I love having written, it's the writing part that gets me.

But I can do this. I can work in peace. 
I can wait to criticize until I've actually written something.


  1. I don't think it's about having to remember all the "rules of writing" as you're doing an initial draft. I find that when I do that, it is hard for me to write. Recently I've come to realize that it's much easier to "puke" out that first draft, then go back and edit. Once I have a basis, then I can go back and find the areas where I need to "show not tell" or where the pacing needs to be controlled. I write my book layer by layer. So create first, then go back and make it beautiful.

    A shameless plug for my book too: I have a book called The Write Edit and it's a little ramble about fixing the manuscript after you have that first draft. After judging several writing contests, I've seen where the flaws are in first drafts. The Write Edit not only tells how to edit (as so many books on editing do), but also shows how to improve the draft by having before and after segments.

    Yes, turn off KFKD and get that manuscript done. That's always the first step.

  2. Thank you so much for commenting, Dawn! That's really good advice. I'll have to check that book out, thanks :)


Constructive criticism is welcome! Please remember, though, that nearly every excerpt posted here is my first rough draft.