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Getting In Touch With Your Work, Old School

By Doreen F McNicol

"I write description in longhand because that's hardest for me and you're closer to the paper when you work by hand, but I use the typewriter for dialogue because people speak like a typewriter works."
Ernest Hemingway

I know what Hemingway was saying here. I know for myself that I feel closer to my writing when I pick up a pencil and paper. It feels more natural to me and more intimate. It forces me to slow down and experience every single word I write.

Like him, detail is my weakness. I have to constantly remind myself to put it in my work. I have always found writing dialogue is much easier for me, since I can hear the words flowing through my mind. Hearing a conversation is normal whereas hearing a description of something mundane and everyday, like a turnip, is not. You don't think of a turnip in terms of subtle shades of color or in terms of texture, no one does unless they force themselves to do so.

Conversation is felt through the impact of the words used, which we do everyday. It's natural to add emotional impact to conversations, so of course we're all used to it. The key is to slow down and consider the words we use to speak. How often do we say something we wish we can take back? It can happen in a second. In writing, especially when we do so thoughtfully, we have a chance to take that valuable do-over and when we still don't catch it, hopefully our editors do.

When a book is busy writing itself, carrying me along for the ride, I can sometimes find myself jammed into a nifty little corner. Once you feel your story derail and you're forced to back up a page or two and slow down you can feel like you've failed a little. The last thing you want to do when you write yourself into a corner is tense up and worry over it. It's not productive and it can make you question you're place as a writer. It helps to remember at that point that anything written is never a waste. You learn from every word you write and when you give yourself the luxury of working with a pencil and paper, it allows you the time to see why that flow of words worked or not. That's why I love this quote so much because it gives the perfect advice for any writer. Take the time to see and feel your words. That's part of the pleasure of being a writer.


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