On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Writing – How Did I Do That? | Linda Brendle

One of my recent blog posts scared me. Not the post itself, but the response. The post was about a day David and I spent on the motorcycle and the healing it brought me. I got some nice responses including the following two:

 And then I could feel the wind, smell the spring, and share the joy of the day with you…

You paint such a vivid picture. I felt as though I was on that bike with you.

Nice comments, right? I’ve said before that I don’t take criticism well. Apparently I don’t take compliments very well either. That night I lay in bed worrying.

I don’t know what I wrote that made the scenes so vivid. If I don’t know what I did this time, how will I be able to repeat it? What if it was dumb luck and I can’t do it again next time.

In addition to the positive comments, I have a couple of my friends who’ve started blogging in the past few months and sometimes ask me for writing advice. Scary, isn’t it? One asks hard questions:

I enjoyed your blog as always. I really like the way you write. Can you teach me to write that way?

I write the way my maternal grandmother cooked. After she became a widow, she supported herself by working for ladies with invalid mothers. She lived in, helped with caregiving duties, cleaned – and she cooked. She never used a cookbook, but as far as I know she never had a culinary failure. People raved about her biscuits and her pancakes, asked for her recipes, and thought she was being disingenuous when she said she didn’t use them. She allowed the doubters to watch her at work, and they discovered that she really did use a dab of this, and handful of that, and a pinch of the other to create her masterpieces. I’d be glad to let my friend sit beside me while I write, but I’m not sure it would be of much help.

The other friend asks easier questions like how often should I blog. She also offers encouraging comments like this:

Thanks for sharing with me about your mom and your heart. There’s a sweet poignancy to how you write about the whole experience. Out of the overflow of the heart, the pen writes.

That’s a good way to describe how I write. I’ve never taken any creative writing courses, so I’m learning as I go. I don’t have to worry about character building, plots, and other techniques. Since I write non-fiction, my characters are already built and my plots are set, so I just tell it like I see at. At first, although my writing was grammatically correct and had some entertainment value, it lacked heart. With lots of encouragement and some gentle editorial harassment, I’ve gotten more in touch with my feelings and learned to spill my guts onto the page. I’ve developed my own writer’s “voice,” and I hear that voice speaking the words in my head as I key them into the computer. I feel the rhythm and the pace, and my voice balks when something doesn’t work. But there’s no way I could put that into a formula or explain how I do it. That’s what scares me. If I can’t quantify it or teach someone else to do it, how can I be sure I’ll be able to do it again next time?

Sitting down at the keyboard is a little like a roller coaster ride. Sometimes chugging up that first hill seems to take forever, sometimes the terror makes my hands sweat and makes me scream let me off this thing, and sometimes the thrill is so exhilarating I want to throw my hands in the air and scream at the top of my lungs. But the ride is always too short, and I want to do it again. Even though next time a car might de-rail and send me hurtling into space or my safety bar might fail at the top of a loop, I go around and get back in line.



Comments on: "Writing – How Did I Do That? | Linda Brendle" (8)

  1. Real insight here. (still, smile at successes and enjoy the ride!)

  2. Six steps in becoming a good writer:
    1. Read
    2. Read
    3. Read
    4. Write
    5. Write
    6. Write

    (then start back over at step one.)

  3. I so very much enjoy the way you write . . . don’t analyze yourself too much. I believe it is a God given talent . . . just let it flow the way you always have and keep it coming.

    Love you!

  4. Sue Allen Brown said:

    I used to throw a transparency up on the overhead projector, grab a blue Vis a Vis marker, and write in front of my eighth and ninth graders, talking my process out loud as I went. Talk about scary! “Teaching” writing was the hardest, yet most rewarding part of my whole career, yet I’m not sure how it happened… I think Christian comes the closest to the truth about that.

    Love the analogy with your grandmother’s cooking… I’d have highlighted that first sentence if we’d been at Village Inn this morning :-).

    • Sue, I would love to have been on one (or many) of your writing classes! I can’t imagine writing for an audience, and I can’t imagine writing without a word processor on which to do my editing!!

      Glad you liked my Granny story. I always loved your highlights!

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