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  • July 22nd, 2009 | 9:29 PM
Of Dogs and Writing - A Matter of Trust

Cassie likes to nap in whatever room I am in. When I get up to go into the kitchen for a drink of water she move from her bed to the center of the library so she can still see me. If I stay in the kitchen too long she will move to her rug in the entry area, the closer to see me. What she doesn't like is when I go in the bathroom and shut the door. If the door doesn't latch, she pushes it open, again and again. If it is completely shut she will lay down as close as she can get, nose facing the door, so as not to miss me when I come back out. It's like she's afraid there's an escape route in there that she can't see and I'm going to leave the house, leave her, without saying goodbye.

I tell her trust me. I'll be back.

She'll often respond with one of her big dog grumbles as she sinks to the floor to wait.

I use the phrase trust me a lot in our training. At the park I ask her to jump on and over a variety of strange things. Sometimes she hesitates, pauses to glance at me, make sure I really want her to jump up on that spinning merry-go-round. I say, "Trust me" and then give the command and she always does what I ask.

I treasure that trust and do my very best not to abuse it.

When you're writing a novel a lot of things can happen that you didn't plan on. You hear writers say that something came out of nowhere but it works so they let it stay. And sometimes you have to try a bunch of things that don't work just so you can figure out what might. With me it usually starts with a character who wants to go someplace or something that makes no sense to me. My job as a writer is to follow him wherever he goes and to trust that it will all make sense later. And even if it doesn't make 100% sense later, chances are that it will probably lead me in just the right direction I need to go. The story will tell itself to you if you let it.

For the last 20 years, no matter what version of the novel I was working on, Flyboy has always had the same main goal. Always. Recently he stood up on the page and pointed me in a different direction. This, he said, this is what I want more than anything else. Really.

Moments like this scare me in my writing because I am so afraid of doing the wrong thing, of messing up the story, of missing the target and falling on my face. Is this really the direction I want the story to go? If this is such a great idea why didn't I think of it 20 years ago? What if I spend all that time following him down this new path only to find out that it goes absolutely nowhere?

Regardless of all those thoughts, I know what I have to do. I have to explore all the possibilities. I have to follow Flyboy down a new path and see where it takes me.

It's just a matter of trust.

There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 12 comments — Leave comment )
July 23rd, 2009 01:54 pm (UTC)
Maybe this is the breakthrough you've been looking for! Courage. As long as you've been working on Flyboy, it was obvious that you had to change something. And now - you have.

And the old stuff still exists as back-up if you need to retrace your steps a bit.
July 24th, 2009 12:49 am (UTC)
I hope it's the breakthrough I was looking for. It's so obvious and yet I couldn't see it for so long. Fingers crossed.
July 23rd, 2009 05:31 pm (UTC)
I know that I often come up with as many ideas while I'm writing as I do when I'm doing the mental work--I think I'm just lucky that far more of those spontaneous Sudden Turns have taken me good places than they have dead ends.
July 24th, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
I do love the surprises that pop up but every time they do I get that socked in the gut feeling like I'm on a roller coaster and I can't see any tracks out ahead.
July 23rd, 2009 05:57 pm (UTC)
If this is such a great idea why didn't I think of it 20 years ago?

One possibility: Because 20 years ago you weren't the writer who could tell this story. And now you are.
July 24th, 2009 12:47 am (UTC)
I'm sure that's very much of the reason, Janni. Now I hope to pull things off.
(Deleted comment)
July 24th, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
Thank you! (sorry I've been such an absent reader of late.)
July 24th, 2009 12:41 am (UTC)
I love this. I'm not sure I'm there yet with my MC. Maybe I have bigger trust issues than I realized. :)
July 24th, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
Maybe your issue isn't even trust but something else. I don't know what will happen with this. I THINK, I HOPE, that it is actually another layer on existing story. Fingers crossed.
July 24th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
I'm definitely a pantser, so most of the things that surprise me (in a good way) happen while I'm sitting there writing. It's the ideas that come in the shower or while laying in bed or while I'm supposed to be doing something else at work - those ideas are the ones that scare me. Sometimes they're way out in left field and have the slightest chance of working if I mull on them for a while - sometimes they're just, well, bad ideas that would derail the story as it is and turn it into something different that won't really work. It's so hard to go through all of those ideas and hope that they'll turn into something great and useful. Usually I just sit on them and let them percolate, and if they come out while I'm writing, great - if not, well, I didn't trust them enough to begin with.

It's really great to read about someone going through the same sort of thing. =)
July 24th, 2009 04:01 pm (UTC)
To be honest, almost everything about writing scares me. LOL But Linda Sue Park once told me that she has to write a scene from every possible angle before she knows what one will work. If that means writing the same scene 10 different ways, that's what she does. I try to remember that as I head down this different paths.
July 24th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
Wow. That's a really interesting approach. I'm sure certain elements would be constant in the various versions of the scenes, but it would really help in boiling it down, and probably cut down on the rewrites afterwords. I think if I tried that, my problem would be misremembering - I would think that I had stuck with a particular version, but then find out that what I remembered and was trying to build on wasn't actually there.
I read on Shanna Swendson's lj a while ago that whenever she gets stuck, she comes up with a list of 10 things that could happen and goes from there. I tried that a few days ago and I think it helped. I'm still a few scenes ahead of the problem bit, so we'll see.
( 12 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.

Susan Taylor Brown

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