Trust Your Game?

I’ve been reading this book and thinking, as I often do, “I wish I could write like Julian Barnes.”  Or, better yet, and to be more accurate, “If only I could write like Julian Barnes.”

I hate the if onlys.  They get us nowhere.  And yet, there they are, like errant needle sticks:  Is this the right vein?  No?  How about this one?

I’ve been traveling these last 2 weeks, and I’ve unexpectedly gotten a lot of work done.  This is a picture of what my notes used to look like.  I’ve been lugging them (and more) around for at least a year.  Now they’re in the trash at the airport.  Decisions have been made.  Moving forward, trusting myself a little more.

Two weeks ago, for the first time in eons, I printed out my entire manuscript and I’ve lugged it with me everywhere.  I’ve made myself handwrite everything; if I needed to find a scene, I couldn’t hit the “search” button, I had to remember where in the hell it was; I’ve trusted every single instinct for what stays and what goes; I’ve let my mind wander down it’s paths instead of trying to hang onto the wheel so goddamned tight.

I am not Julian Barnes.

Today I saw this discussion (mentor-project.html) between 2 golfers:  Ben Crenshaw and Jonathan Vegas.  Watch it.  Imagine they’re writers instead of golfers.

Do you trust your game?

29 thoughts on “Trust Your Game?

  1. schietree

    Just so happens I have been thinking about this, and wrote a post on trying to trust. It’s hard, in life as well as writing.

    I work on a computer because my dyslexia makes trying to invent a sentence particularly torturous without the blessed delete function.

    1. Teri

      I don’t have such a good reason. My reason for typing is: it’s faster.

      Not exactly the brainchild of a Creativity Master.

      And by the by, Helen, I just read your post from today —- and as I often do, I think, If this is Helen’s blog writing, how flippin’ fab must her edited prose be.

      1. schietree

        Thank you Teri. I think there is something about the blog format which makes things flow well. I was never terribly good at essays, but blogging seems to go a lot more smoothly. Wondering if you find that too?

      2. Teri

        I absolutely do. Sometimes these blog posts seem so easy and the manuscript seems so painful, which always reminds me I’m trying to hard. To relax a bit.

        (easier said than done, of course)

        And I absolutely use this blog as a warmup to writing. It gets my mind going, let’s me talk about stuff that has nothing to do with the story in my book (but that’s bugging me, or inspiring me) so I can let it go and get back to work. Not my intention when I started, but there it is ….

  2. Jess

    Oh, wait, I was supposed to talk about my game. My game is in its high season, and I am in that watch out what you wish for phase where crazy people attack you for sticking your neck out and saying things. I have one blogger riling all sorts of loony followers up and I have learned to view them as “hit counts on my blog” rather than people whose vitriol matters to me. The great news is that I am consistently writing at least 3k words/day, and I like a lot of them.

    My head and shoulders hurt more from sitting at the keyboard, but like any good athlete, I have a chiropractor.

    1. Teri

      This is a fine attitude, Jess. I keep hearing that if you’re pissing people off enough that they have to comment, and argue, and posture, you’re doing a damned good job. I have faith you’ll keep doing it. Did you have any idea that writing a piece about homework would generate such craziness?

    1. Teri

      There’s always work to do. The “w” word keeps popping up, over and over again. I recently listened to some kids talk about how they want to get rich —- and never once, while I was eavesdropping, did one of them say anything about what they love doing, what they might be good at, or how hard they might have to work.

      1. Teri

        Me too. Because I see them, 2 decades from now, having no dreams, wondering what happened, and not, of course, rich in any way of the imagination. It makes me want to cry.

  3. Averil Dean

    Mmm, parts of my game. I trust my work ethic and tenacity. Do I trust the outcome? Not so much.

    I have more faith in people like you to write the things that matter. I know you’ll be giving Mr. Barnes a run for his money.

      1. Averil Dean

        This book keeps coming up. At first I was terrified by it, because of the criticism, but now it’s more a feeling of, Goddamn it, I’m three steps back!

        I need to get back to work.

        Thank you for the spurs, my friend.

  4. Downith

    Butter nuts, Burnt Prairie, Rebel Hill………..intriguing. I’m imagining printing the whole manuscript out and holding that weight, getting to know it on that visceral level.

    I haven’t read The Sense Of An Ending but I did enjoy his short story collection Pulse.

    So I click on the link that takes me to the Julian Barnes website and see references to Eleanor Wachtel of Writers and Company fame and As It Happens (both Canadian Broadcasting Corp programs) Feeling homesick now.

    1. Teri Post author

      I’m pretty sure Burnt Prairie is one of the best town names ever. I might have to use it when I write my novel. In my next lifetime.

  5. CJ

    In the Tournament of books Sense of an Ending beat out The Devil All fhe Time and I want surprised. Good ole fashioned telling not showing–I happen to love it. Here in LA young get the screenwriter sensibility beaten I to you–show us don’t tell us. That knocked me off my game for a bit now I’m back and my new book is so old fashioned.

    1. Teri

      I have such a love/hate relationship with the iPad…. Pretty sure I have never (never!) typed anything without a typo.

      I love how, in The Sense of an Ending, Barnes floats (effortlessly) amongst telling the story, self-reflection, and reminding the reader how little he knows (knew). So fucking smart. I’m loving it.

  6. Lyra

    I love that you’ve been working on it so much. And that you printed it out. And that you are trusting your game.

    I trust that I’m a better writer than when I started. I trust that it will be better when I type it, better when I edit it, and better when someone else looks it over.

    All the rest, well, we’ll see.

  7. macdougalstreetbaby

    You go, girl.
    Funny, I’ve been reading Barnes’ book, too, but for some reason I’m not getting pulled into it. Wonder why.

    Feedback keeps me going. I hate to say it but I’m like a starved animal, lapping up milk. I love working alone but without the attention of others I wouldn’t be half as motivated.

    1. Teri

      The Barnes book is definitely one that needs to be read all at once or in big chunks. I tried to start it twice before and never got going.

      I’m the complete opposite — I work away like a bear in hibernation.

  8. Deb

    I love your motivation, Teri. Cannot wait to see that ms turned into a book. Some days I trust myself, others not so much. It seems to be like exercise. It hurts at first, but if you stick with it you can run a hill or two without passing out.

    1. Teri

      It is EXACTLY like that, Deb. I’m going to run the hills before I run out of steam. And I know from experience, I will run out.

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