Clarity for a Scrambled Brain


A writing groupie considers what jumble she can jive by shoving symbolism into the crannies.

At some point, we all forget how to word. The verbing wonks and we gnarl the parcels. Meaning goes blurr-lick.

My brain scrambled last week and I found myself asking, how does writing work again? That’s an awful question, but sometimes it’s necessary to admit that I need perspective.

This morning I ignored my chapter 6 deadline and focused instead on cleanup. Each hour of work is precious, so stopping myself took some effort. Instead of editing chapter 6, I transcribed some messy character notes, printed the fresh profile sheets, and, most importantly, read Snapshots by Paul Buchanan.

With each page my gnarl-goes-wonk dissipated. Buchanan’s writing is clean. It’s like looking into a crystal pool of water and wondering whether or not you can reach the bottom. Each image is purposeful. Nothing is wasted.

Snapshots reminds me of my short story class in college, where we practiced tight scene-work and were slashed to pieces with every critique. Those are good memories of trying, failing, trying, failing, and trying some more to become the writer that I want to be.

Every now and then I come across a new book that electrifies me. Sarah Addison Allen’s Peach Keeper did that a few months ago and, as my writing group knows, I would not shut up about it. It’s the type of book that makes me want to improve so badly that I ache for the time and the energy to grow.

I need to keep these books in sight. The writers who are devastatingly better than I am give me perspective. They humble; they encourage. It’s good for the soul.

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