Ticker Tape Parade


I woke up at 2:30 Saturday morning with an opening scene for an essay.  By 3:30 the scene had sentences, in order, running like ticker-tape through my head.  By the time I got up at 5:30, I had the closing scene, too.  Not the sentences, but the scene:  a few words, a picture, a reflection back to the opening.

This is how my writer-mind works.  In frame.  If I open a story by driving into a driveway, the end will likely be driving out.  Hello / Goodbye.  Sometimes I’m aware, sometimes not.  This weekend I re-read a short story I published a few years ago and, for the first time, noticed a white poinsettia in the opening and an even larger white poinsettia at the end.  I remember having that parallel when I wrote the story, but I just now saw the placement, the framing of the story between those anemic, bloodless plants.  The essay I recently sent to Post Road opens with a man calling a dog that doesn’t come and ends with me calling the same dog.  “Buddy!”

Today I’m leaving the memoir in the drawer and writing this new essay to see if it goes anywhere.  I have to get the words on the page so I can stop the ticker-tape and move on.


How do your stories and scenes come to you?

20 thoughts on “Ticker Tape Parade

  1. tedstrutz

    I’ve experienced the ‘ticker-tape’. The stories I plan to write, never get written. The ones that do, come out of the blue. (rhyme not intended)

    1. Teri

      And of course the stories I don’t want to write end up being the best ones. This never fails. I don’t know why I ever try and ignore this.

    1. Teri

      “Fuck if I know” pretty much explains how this writing gig works. When “I know” happens I should just shut the computer down and eat bon bons, as this would be more productive than bullshitting about what I think I know.

  2. Averil Dean

    I have to dig for them, unfortunately. The only idea that ever came to me unbidden was the first one. But I do get what I’d call an intuition about what the story should feel like—the mood I want to achieve. I write to satisfy that particular craving. But the story itself comes from everywhere.

    I love this insight into the way your writing-mind works, Teri. And I think I know what you mean.

    1. Teri

      A mood, a craving. That is exactly what I imagine for you….

      As for how my mind works, it would be great if I could write this book while lying down. That’s when all the good ideas come.

    2. macdougalstreetbaby

      Yes, this is really interesting, Teri. I think what makes writing so difficult for me is that I’m seeing so many things happening at once. This idea of hello/goodbye is a really tangible device. I may just cling to it, if you don’t mind.

      1. Teri

        I’m reading Erika Marks’s book right now, and one of the things I love about her writing is the pacing …. one thing at a time, no rushing.

  3. Josephine

    my stuff seems to come to me most often in the car. titles first. and then other pieces will float into place during the day. getting them down is another story. (get it…story??)

    i like this…you revisiting stories and remembering details you forgot. it’s comforting to me tonight.

    1. Teri Post author

      Getting it down is always another story, isn’t it? This is why when people say, “I have a book in me!” and want to pat them on the head and say, Yes, good luck with that. Nothing like a blank page…..

  4. Les

    All I know is that my best writing–the best sections of things I’ve written, according to readers: most vivid, most flowing, etc.–are always scenes that I can literally see, be it the characters, situations, settings, etc. Sometimes those are from a memory, and other times they’re a complete construct, but in either case they’re just as real in my mind.

    1. Teri Post author

      Les, I still hardly know what the best things are. It never fails that the paragraph I most want to delete is the one a reader will mark with “this is my favorite part.”

  5. girl in the hat

    When I read your posts, Teri, I imagine you as a distinct, intensely intelligent, emphatic, clear-headed woman who knows exactly what’s going on. You always rub off on me just a little, and I spiral off into my mess with a sense of purpose. Thank you for that.

    1. Teri Post author

      Oh Anna, what a sweet thing to say. I’m pretty sure I never know what’s going on and that I’m constantly trying to make sense of the confusion. Like a huge, unsolvable math equation. Maybe this explains why I’m so driven to write nonfiction.

  6. Catherine

    I love the dawn because of this – that faraway but lucid writing rush. I also do lots of thinking in the car, then try to empty my head and let it fall to the page clearly. It’s such a rush, isn’t it?

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