Today’s guest is author George Singleton. George’s book, Pep Talks, Warnings & Screeds: Indispensable Wisdom And Cautionary Advice For Writers, was released by Writer’s Digest books last fall, and–according to the book itself–“serves up everything you ever need to know to become a real writer (meaning one who actually writes), in bite-sized aphorisms. It’s Nietzsche’s Beyond Good & Evil meets Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It’s cough syrup that tastes like chocolate cake. In other words, don’t expect to get better unless you get a good dose of it, maybe two.”
We’re glad George could join us today for some bite-sized tips. Enjoy!
Five things Not to Do After the Screeching Halt
I would venture to say that, when I’m writing, I come to a screeching halt about every minute or two. Sometimes it’s every twenty seconds. Usually this has more to do with my not being able to think of an easy word—salt shaker, aspirin, knife, roach clip, anticonstitutionalism. It’s not like that word won’t crop into my head within the next quarter hour. The easiest thing to do is go ahead and put a long dash in its place and go on with the sentence. For example, I might write, “I looked at Terry Kennedy and could tell that his wife wouldn’t understand why he thought it necessary to buy a _______ , and try to pour a concrete slab in the backyard for better stability.” In my mind I can see what I’m talking about, and sure enough, later on I’ll go fill in that space with “32 quart stainless steel turkey fryer.”
But it took me twenty some odd years to trust that the word or image would eventually pop into my pea brain. In the old days, I’d do these bad things instead:
1. Read the dictionary, thinking I’ll come across the word magically. Thirty minutes into that routine and I would forget what the heck I was writing about in the first place.
2. Go get a cup of coffee, and on the way notice that The Today Show was on, and how they might have a piece on which will include whatever I couldn’t think about. Then I’d sit and get wrapped up in our nation’s weather forecasts.
3. Get on the internet, maybe Google “concrete slab,” and then read about every dead body ever found in the Hudson and East Rivers.
4. Go stand in my own back yard and look at a space where, perhaps, something should be, hoping that “32 quart stainless steel turkey fryer” will hit me.
5. Hit Save, and quit writing for the day.
I tend to handwrite more and more these days, so when I look over, say, Monday’s writing on Tuesday morning, at times it looks like I’ve gone into Morse Code, what with all the dashes. So be it. When the aphasia hits full-force, and I can’t remember any words whatsoever, then I’ll know to quit. Or I won’t know that I was supposed to be writing in the first place, which may or may not be a blessing.