Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 30, 2010

Nose Close to Paper

Most of us who’ve been in any kind of writing workshop where work is read aloud have been asked to “Just read, please.” No introduction beyond the title, except perhaps the genre, and certainly no apologies. And most of us have seen people who couldn’t help themselves. There’s a flurry of back story that rises like smoke we try to wave away as we wait for words on a page. The explanations don’t have much to do with the tale that follows. Usually they come from anxiety, which often has nothing to do with the confidence or lack of it on the language on paper. The explanation just distracts.

For the past month, anything I could say about my writing process feels like that kind of puff or fluff, though often before trying to create a view of what I was doing has been helpful to me and fun. I think I’ll get back to that. Maybe I’m feeling superstitious. Right now I feel I’m on a good path, but worry that if I pull up my head and look around, I might think: uh oh. So I’ll go back to peering close to the page. It’s the quiet part of writing. Past the whirlwind and questions of a beginning, when I might want to brainstorm with others, but not so polished that I’m looking for readers. It’s the part where one sentence kind of dictates the next and I’m listening with all ears.



  1. No apologies
    I tried very hard not to make excuses or over-explain when the usual “so, how’s the writing going?” questions arose at both Thanksgiving tables. I’m glad that they’re interested though ;0)

  2. Re: No apologies
    It is wonderful that people cared enough to ask. It is hard not to go on about those questions that touch our souls, but to realize sometimes a few words are enough — for non-writers! It’s kind of like being pregnant, when other people who are expecting can talk for hours about the process, while others are happy with a “fine, thanks!”

  3. Re: No apologies
    *grin* that was a perfect analogy!

  4. Right now I feel I’m on a good path, but worry that if I pull up my head and look around, I might think: uh oh.
    I have been in this place for most of this year. And I’m someone who usually enjoys peering behind the curtain.
    But I tell myself it’s best to do whatever helps the writing (and writer) right now.
    Thinking of you with your nose close to the paper and your ear tuned to hidden voices, and wishing you good listening and good words!

  5. Very comforting to know you’re in this paper-sniffing place, too. And of course you’re right, best to do whatever the particular piece is calling for: chat, written words, fairly total silence. So for a while we’ll just talk about pie.

  6. It’s funny how we as writers sometimes need to stay away from spoken words. Listening and dictating what comes from the heart is perfect. I’m so glad you’re on that path.

  7. Keep going! We’ll be here.

  8. I agree spoken words can sometimes channel-astray the ones we need to write. Thank you for your encouragement of words and silence, and I hope you’re finding both today.

  9. You’re the best, Jenn. Happy December!

  10. You’re in the best part of the process! If pictures of pie appear in this space, I’ll be smiling.

  11. Toby, thanks for the reminder that this really is my favorite part of the process. Not the wild muddle of starting out, not the angst of getting things right with one eye on the readers. I like the tip of my nose pointing toward paper. And thanks for being on the lookout for pictures of pie, though it’s likelier to be scones and cookies here. I never mastered the rolling pin.

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