About Writing

Writing is Like Knitting

DSC_0448

My friend Sue keeping warm in the hat I knit for her.

Writing is like knitting. Here’s how—for me.

  • I’ve learned a lot by studying online. There are lots of videos, tutorials, tips, blogs—you name it—online.
  • It’s very technical. A new language of terms.
  • It involves words. Untangling the directions for a knitting pattern can be a challenge.
  • It takes practice, practice, practice (much like skiing!).
  • I make mistakes. Oh, do I make mistakes. Correcting them is both a pain and an art. The trick is to first find the mistake and then figure out how to correct it.
  • I get to give it to friends. I enjoy the process of creating, but giving away a gift is the best.
Advertisements
Categories: About Writing | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Writing is Like Skiing

DSCF0048

The process of writing is a lot like skiing—for me.

  • It takes practice, practice, practice—for years.
  • I need lessons and critiques from experts.
  • I make lots of mistakes and feel clumsy half the time.
  • Sometimes it hurts—my body and my ego at risk.
  • It’s frustrating.
  • It’s extremely technical.
  • It’s hard to remember everything I’m supposed to be paying attention to.
  • It’s the most fun—ever.
  • There are times when it’s absolutely, crazily, achingly sublime: when it all comes together, and I feel like I’m flying, that I can’t do anything wrong.
  • I’ll never regret doing either.
Categories: About Writing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

On Becoming a Stephen King Fan

Before you take me too literally, let me qualify that—I’m becoming a fan of Stephen King the writer. Prior to a couple weeks ago I’d never read a word King wrote; I don’t like being terrified. Ever since Miss Gultch turned into the Wicked Witch of the North before my very young eyes, I’ve preferred to keep my distance from scary. I screamed out loud in the theater when the alien appeared in the TV reflection in “Signs”.

However, some of the top Christian writers recommend “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, (with a warning about the language), for learning about writing and being a writer from one of the most prolific and successful contemporary American writers. So I read it. I was stunned. The guy can really write! And the language is really bad!

It’s fascinating to read the autobiographical part of the book that tells about King’s formative years as a writer. Of course, since I’m a psychotherapist, I was also reading for psychological and personality development. When your babysitter locks you in the closet and generally abuses you, no wonder you write scary things. And oh so much more that explains who Stephen King is.

What emerges in the book is a vivid picture of King and his approach to writing. I’m inspired. He didn’t get where he is fooling around at writing. He also doesn’t fool around at life. He’s a devoted husband of one wife, father, and grandfather. I looked at a video clip of an interview with King and his wife five months after King’s near-fatal accident June ’99. They seem to be the people he writes they are: genuine and loving.

Currently I’m reading a collection of short stories by King. I’m reading with one eye to learning about plot development. He sure makes things happen: things the reader believes, even if they’re unbelievable.

Will I read any of King’s three inch thick horror stories? Probably not—I have enough trouble sleeping.

Categories: About Writing, Book Review, Writing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Next Novel—Like Climbing A Mountain

Pity me—I’m starting to think about beginning work on my next novel.

It’s fun, but it’s also like standing at the bottom of the mountain, looking up at how far you have to go. We wonder—why in the world do people climb mountains?—really. Because they’re there? Not likely—it would be much easier to go around.

Taurus mountains, Antalya, Turkey

I think people climb mountains because the process of getting to the top fulfills some need—maybe a dysfunctional, masochistic need, but a need nevertheless—and the view is gratifying, even incomparable.

I climbed a mountain once, sort of. I got up at 3 a.m. and joined a group for a trek up a smallish peak in Switzerland. We had to start early to get off the mountain before snow melted, opening up unseen crevasses. It was mostly a hard slog. We followed switchback paths, marched over a snowfield, and clambered up the rock pinnacle with the assist of embedded chains, to the hut at the top. But what a view! Of the Matterhorn, Dent du Midi, and other surrounding peaks. On the way down, a woman panicked when we had to leap over a petite crevasse (the bottom of which I couldn’t see), and she had to be encouraged down step by step.

Writing is like that. Regardez la petite crevasse! Watch out for the little crack! (Our Swiss guide really said that.)

My next novel might be set in the Scottish Highlands or an island and then England, starting in the ’50’s or ’60’s and moving forward in time to the ’70’s or ’80’s. I foresee complexity (crevasses)—things I’ll have to research—all over the place. “Why?” the writer laments, “Couldn’t I pick something simple?” Because, when I’m done, it will have been worth it.

Cristine Eastin © 2012
Categories: About Writing | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Writing Believable Characters

LAuthor Jon Hassler wrote brilliantly. I haven’t finished devouring his work, but Rookery Blues, The Dean’s List, and North of Hope are set in small-town northern Minnesota where people cope with life. Obviously, people cope elsewhere, but crafting a fascinating story about fascinating people doing not much in the middle of nowhere takes skill. No wonder Hassler taught creative writing. He was a master.

In my opinion, one of the reasons Hassler’s work crackles is that he creates extraordinarily believable characters. I picture him writing with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of mental health diagnoses, propped next to the keyboard.

To create real, consistent—believable—characters, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if writers really did that—familiarized themselves with the criteria from the DSM-IV.

It’s jarring if a character does something we just know people like that don’t do, because we know these people.

Read the descriptions for: Personality Disorders, Mood Disorders, Eating Disorders, Substance Abuse, Adjustment Disorders, Childhood Disorders, Cognitive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Impulse Control Disorders, and Psychotic Disorders. That will get you started on drawing real-life people and their problems, remembering the continuum factor.

Writers love to get characters into trouble and watch them squirm to see what happens. The process and outcome of coping should usually ring true to a character’s personality, whether it’s reactions to trouble of the character’s own making, or events or actions of others. A narcissist is unlikely to be overcome by a wave of altruism, unless it’s self-serving. A hoarder, chronic worrier, or clean freak is unlikely to ever be free of all obsessive-compulsive behaviors or anxious thoughts. A character who’s basically OK before a seriously depressing event occurs is likely to have the resources to cope and be relatively OK again. And eating disorders aren’t about being thin, though the client may protest too much, they’re about emotions and control.

There was a time when I railed against diagnosing my psychotherapy clients, but I did it because third party payers require it. I’m resigned that we’re stuck with the medical model and insurance companies. (And if I continue down this particular bunny trail, I’ll start foaming at the mouth.) Diagnosing has its point, though, in that it gives therapists a framework within which to understand and treat people.

Diagnostic categories can also be the basis for putting flesh and bone on our fictitious characters.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012
Categories: About Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.