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Write Like No One’s Watching

I’m pleased to have fellow writing friend, Rachel McMillan, here today! And I love her topic, too. Sometimes we writers can become paralyzed when we sit down in front of our computers. Today, Rachel gives us freedom to write like nobody is watching! The floor is yours, Rachel. . .

close the door

I love writing. When it is flowing and my finger pads are tip tapping their rhythm, almost as if propelled by a mind of their own, there is no greater euphoria in the world.  When it’s going badly, there is no void that aches so deeply.

I started writing when I was a little kid and have boxes and boxes of long-hand drafts of stories that will never see daylight– hidden in a Rubbermaid container.  I also have stories upon stories of typed words, snippets and novels-in-embryo stored in computer files and on USB drives.  It was not until about a year ago that I first showed someone a novel I had written, signed with an agent and finally plunged into a world of scariness.

You see, to this point, I had only written and edited and revised for myself. Then, frighteningly, my writing, my world, my delightful book people would be appropriated by other eyes, other readers, other interpretations.

Dickens famously knew more about his characters, their broad, over-bearing and perfect personalities, their picaresque journeys and their comical and tragic turns than ever went into the final product. Dickens wrote his best friends, his community and his passions and pursuits and fears and triumphs  seamlessly sewn into his elaborate prosaic puppet play.

There is romance in writing. Let it flow.

Famously, F Scott Fitzgerald wrote by the sentence whittling everything down and revising and revising while his contemporary and erstwhile friend and competitor Ernest Hemingway wanted to strip everything to the sparest form. He was a manly writer.  Alternatively, the flourished and flowery purple prose of a writer like LM Montgomery (who straddled the Victorian and the Modern period in terms of her writing career) was raked over the coals by male critics for writing pretty nonsense.

However you write, dear friend, write for the romance and for the love affair.  If your love affair is pitting a man against a beast with a gun in one hand and balancing a whiskey in the other a la Hemingway, then, do it, but do it for you and not because you want to consciously strip your prose to skeletal —especially in a first draft.  If you, dear friend, love to practice words that may not conjoin well, that may be dissonant chains of intermingling nonsense or forced similes or anecdotes that trail and fall off with far too many adjectives, then do it— if it gives you joy.  Write first for you.

My facebook and blog followers know that I am still feeling the persistent ache of losing my characters to submission. The moment I sent the book to my agent, a small gnawing cavern began growing in my heart. I miss my friends. I miss them all the time. I think about them all of the time. I wonder what they’re doing.  I wonder how to impart them in some next adventure.  I vowed, still uncontracted, that I would set forth on a new novel and not think about the next sequential story that features my dear book people. Easier said than done.  So I made a deal with myself. I could visit them. I could practice and play with them while simultaneously trying something new.

At this point, I am writing for me. For the grand romance that waltzes me with the words, that joins me with my imaginative (and by this point, very fleshed out) book family, to play and prod them further, to re-set them and shove them into grandiose adventures, here and abroad.

Writers, cherish your imaginations.  Not everything that you type on the page necessarily has to be of publishable quality.  Not every try and start and mixed attempt needs to have a planned endgame.

Every word has a purpose. Every word is a piece to a greater puzzle, a stitch in a patch that will sew up a quilt. Its practice, its perseverance and its romance, a tapestry threaded with triumph and failure, good words and bad, over-writing and underdevelopment…

Every word you read and every word you write should be a transcendent experience.

Read to the point of book drunkary. Write to the point of cross-eyed bliss. Whereupon, you wake up and you think of it, you drift to sleep with its scenes stained behind your fluttering eyelids.

Write like no one’s watching.  It might turn out to be the personal best and most unreadable thing you’ll ever write.  But, oh the gloriously, giddy adventure you’ll have when in its word throes.

rachelRachel McMillan blogs at A Fair Substitute for Heaven.  You can find her on twitter at @rachkmc. She is also a frequent contributor to Novel Crossing.


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Things That Make Me Want to Write…


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It’s weird, what sparks my creativity. Usually, it’s random things.

For instance…

Country music.

I know, I know. Some of you might be rolling your eyes. Country music isn’t for everyone. In fact, I don’t really listen to it very often. But recently, my husband and I found a station on Pandora that we love. 90s country music. Because that’s when we both listened to it and every song seems to bring back memories.

Here’s the thing about country music.

It tells a story.

Often those stories involve love.

And often, those love stories get the creative juices flowing.

Something else that makes me want to write?

New places.

Recently, I found myself in Brussels.

I was traveling through on my way home from Kinshasa with a five hour layover. So I, along with my travel buddies, decided to venture away from the airport and see what we could see.

Walking around the narrow, cobbled streets, listening as passersby spoke in foreign languages, sampling the most delicious waffle I’d ever tasted, taking in the breathtaking architecture…

Yeah, that got the creative juices flowing too.

Other things that flip my writerly switch and gets the inspirational juices flowing…

– an inspiring sermon

– back road driving

– a good book

– people watching

– witty poetry or beautifully written stories

What inspires you? Have you ever been to Brussels?

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Sunflowers from Iowa
Before I turn the microphone over to my friend, I feel prompted to say that she was not bribed, blackmailed, or coerced in any way to say such kind things. :-) Take it away, Jennifer…
Thank you Katie, for the opportunity to guest post here. I promise not to use this space to ask people for money. Like. More than once.
How about twice?
Ha. I know, you’re all rolling in the aisles…
Let me introduce myself. My name is Jennifer Major, I’m Canadian, a wife and mom, an avid reader, a thrift store junkie, an antique restorer and a mini-van opera singer. I love to garden, I know how to say “God bless you” in Bolivian Quechua, Spanish and English…I love Merrell shoes and Jones New York clothes. I have blue eyes red hair, and a deep, unending fear of somehow ending up in jail.
Like, for real.
And yes, that was an actual fact.
Here’s another one.
At a time when I was truly floundering, Katie Ganshert was my life line. But, she probably didn’t know that. What? And you thought I was all perky bunnies and double rainbows?
Nah…but even if you did, thanks.
You see, I cannot remember how I met Katie, but it was through a writer blog, somewhere, although I’m not sure which one.
But this isn’t about that whole writer thing. It’s about that whole friendship thing. You see, sometimes when we 50-somethings try to grab our dreams so they don’t become regrets, we get lost, and we feel the need to act like we have it together, even when we don’t. Because we don’t want to freak out our kids or husbands. And our friends. And just about everyone. So we hide behind what we know to be safe, and curl up as best we can to wait out the storms. Because a dream can get out of hand and sometimes jumping for it ain’t the way out.
Katie thought I was a newb writer asking questions. But God had other plans. He knew I was a middle aged woman feeling like I was back in middle school, getting lost in the halls, day after day. He knew I needed a friend, someone with a big, beautiful smile, and an even bigger heart.
Once again, this is not about the writer thing it’s about finding a friend in a whirlwind.
I’d opened a door to a world I didn’t understand and Katie was there, in the back ground, at first. But I watched. I read her blog, and I realized she’s the real deal. We got to know each other through emails and Facebook, I even sent her chocolate. Tip? Don’t send chocolate in the mail in July. Just. Don’t.
As I went from simply asking her questions, to becoming a Facebook friend, to actually becoming an actual ‘I love you enough to tell you candy corn is disgusting’ kind of friend, our Katie has taught me a lot about friendship. That I can be friends with someone I’ve never met. That there are friends who willingly downplay their “woo-hoo” moments and achievements, then break my ribs when I have good news that really doesn’t even compare.
I’m SO thankful that God nudged me to step out and dream, and that He sent me so far out of my comfort zone…because that’s how I made another friend, a sunflower to add to my garden.  A sunflower named Katie.
When’s the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone? Any fun byproducts result in the stepping?
1379617_535996673146445_1545426168_nJennifer Major has been married to her husband John for 25 years, they have four children and live in New Brunswick, Canada. Jennifer grew up in the big, beautiful city of Vancouver, BC, but prefers life in her small town. Mostly because none of the houses cost 3 million dollars. She’s done mission work in Bolivia and is proud to say she can ask for lettuce in Spanish. You can follow her writing journey by visiting her blog and Facebook page.
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