Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wise Words from Elizabeth Berg

I've been searching for Escaping into the Open (the art of writing true) by Elizabeth Berg and finally found it this week. The book interweaves Elizabeth Berg's story of her own writing journey and offers encouraging advice on how to create stories that spring from deep within the heart.

It's wonderful! Let me give you a passage that really speaks to me:

The real problem with talking too much about what you're doing is that you set yourself up for judgment. And if someone sneers at your idea, however subtly they do it, it can cripple you And they don't even have to sneer--someone simply asking too many questions, pushing you too hard to say what something is before you know what it is, can freeze you up.

Amen and Amen!

Of course, many of you out there won't be able to identify with this at all. You can spill your entire story to any stranger on the street before you've written one word and still sit down and write a good novel. I can't. I feel my way along--page by page and chapter by chapter--and I'm never quite sure if I'm on the right path. So you can see that brainstorming with writer friends just doesn't work for me. I've always been somewhat of a loner in my writing. I've been in a million critique groups--compatible with maybe one-third of them.

Believe me, I'd love to have rhino skin. I'd love to be able to take it on the chin when someone sneers in my direction. I'd love to be able to brainstorm and let my stories spew and not be intimidated or shut down when someone with a stronger POV than mine says, "that won't work because of this, this and this and you need to change that to this and this to that and totally remove the ..."

Berg does believe in critique groups, and so do I, but I also agree with Berg when she says:

Just take care in choosing those whom you ask to look at it; and then be careful of what you do with their advice.

I'd really like to learn how to brainstorm with others. I believe if I could master this my stories would be less problematic. I know writers who take off on week long retreats and all they do is toss ideas around, work out their plots, help each other grow them into complete stories. Color me green with envy. Do you think this is something that can be learned? Reckon I could train myself to be that open and trusting?

Do you brainstorm with friends? How often? How many friends? What's your brainstorming procedure? How well does it work for you?


Charles Gramlich said...

Most of the time in my writing career I've been the only person I know of who is writing fantasy and horror, which means a difficult time in bouncing ideas around with others. I guess I've gotten used to not doing it and it would probably feel pretty weird to me. But I wouldn't mind giving it a try some time.

Jan Rider Newman said...

I have a hard time talking about my work when it's finished. The best advocate for my stories and poems are the stories and poems themselves, which is why I have such a hard time with query letters and synopses.