Reading Circles – A Writer’s Book of Days {Part 3}

Our book club has a new name! Bigger Picture Blogs would like to introduce Reading Circles: a place where we’d like to welcome you to come sit with us, and read and discuss books that can help strengthen and inspire our writing. This week, we’re continuing a conversation around Judy Reeves’s book A Writer’s Book of Days. Please join us!

When my inner perfectionist is talking, she has a tendency to whine. Why can’t you write like Chang-rae Lee? This writing is blander than uncooked oats. Go look at some Murakami. Can’t you write like him? Where’s the significance? Kingsolver did it so much better. After I kowtow to the self-flagellation for a few minutes, I remind myself that first drafts are no place for critics or comparisons and tell her to come back to visit when I’m on the fourth or fifth draft. If I need extra soothing, I remind myself my adored authors are quite a bit older and more experienced than I. I have time.

Last week we read a bit on perfectionism and giving ourselves permission to excuse her from our writing practice.

Were you able to notice how perfectionism creeps into your practice? What does it sound like for you?

The problem with allowing the perfectionist to sit in on your writing practice is not only that she can prevent you from writing at all, but she also prevents you from writing dangerously. Oh, beware the places you dare not tread to go! Those secret, locked doors best left unopened. You dare not even glimpse at what you might say. So you write safe, and pretty, and very nicely. Which means your writing gets…dull.

“When vague words like terrible, difficult, and painful make regular appearances, or when clichés like brokenhearted, sobbing like a child, or flew into a rage are used to describe feelings, you can be fairly certain the writer is holding back. It’s hard to care about people or characters who are held at arm’s length by abstract words and hackneyed phrases. Readers want the real stuff: the truth.”

So how can we brandish a bazooka at these secret doors?

This week, I’d like us to read a bit from Guideline 4: Let Your Writing Find It’s Own Form. I’d like to encourage you to take a look at the intro, and then pay special attention to the sections titled: “Go Deeper”, “Doors and Windows”, “When Your Writing Bores Even You”, and the section focused on that all-important mandate “Show, Don’t Tell”.

Then, using some of the insights presented in this chapter, I’d like to encourage you to take a second look at some things you’ve written lately and see if you can identify any doors left unlocked. Were there any places you could have gone deeper or gotten more specific? If you can, try to push through and get to the heart of what it didn’t occur to you or you were too afraid to say.

I won’t make you share your secrets here, but I’d love if next week, you could share what that experience was like for you. Did you get stuck? Did you find something that surprised you? Please share how this process is working for you.

“’Writing is not like parenting,’ said Romelda Shaffer. ‘Torment, confusion, obstacles, and catastrophes are good things.’”

UPDATE: A commenter made a fantastic suggestion that these weekly book club meetings could include a link-up where we all share something we’ve written, either a timed writing, something in response to the book, or a recent blog post, and we could go around and give and receive feedback. Would you like this too? Would that help facilitate discussion? Other suggestions? Please add your voice to the comments here! If others are interested in a link-up, I’ll include one starting next week. In the meantime, if you do have some writing you’d like to share (e.g. a recent timed writing, or something you’ve done in response to one of the book’s prompts) and receive feedback on, please feel free to include your link in the comments here, and we can begin our discussion as early as today!

3 responses to “Reading Circles – A Writer’s Book of Days {Part 3}

  1. I think this book club is a great idea, but I’m having trouble figuring out how to interact with everyone. (Am I the only one?) Maybe it would help if we all shared something? Like, a blog post we’ve written recently or a timed writing, or something we write specifically for the book club, and then we could all link up and talk about our writing as it relates to the book. I just think it would be easier (for me anyway) if I had something specific in mind when we’re talking. Not to mention, I’d love to give and receive feedback. What do you guys think?

    • If people would like to share some timed writings or sample pieces or recent blog posts, that would be fantastic! Let me update the post with a call-out to see if others are interested in posting some of their work, or things that come from reading the book, and would like to give and receive feedback. If others are interested, I’ll include a linky starting next week. In the meantime, if you do have something you’d like to share this week, please comment with a link to your post and we’ll check it out. I shall do the same.

    • I think that’s a great idea Emily! And I agree it would be nice to share with and interact with everyone.

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