Dig in to Find Your Best Writing

Dear Jane, Are you hiding? I know it’s not easy to go back to that draft for, what is it the fourth time? Cursing me, or that voice in your head, (or maybe we are now one voice), telling you to re-work it again.

"I just want to finish this book and go on to something else.”

Of course you do.

Isn’t that what we all want when we are close to a breakthrough--to avert it? When we veer dangerously close to that twist in the road where, once we turn the corner, we will see a new horizon and never again perceive our world the same?

When you read a piece of writing that moves you, there’s blood on the page. The author did not leave you traces of paper cuts. That’s blood from the heart. Well-oxygenated, nutrient rich, and it feeds your spirit to read it.

Our best writing impulses urge us to go beyond the superficial, obvious choices that our ego wants to make, “Please, please, reach for an image that’s honest and true," and, for the first time, have the courage to stay with the image and excavate the words to describe it—dig like you seek a buried treasure hidden for millennia deep under Egyptian sands…unless you would rather settle for surface rocks?

I have faith in you. I believe you will get out your shovel and dig.

I know, in the movies, they make it seem so easy. The writer bangs away at a keyboard. We perceive the elapse of time as a montage runs over meaningful background music.

And here you sit alone. No music. No montage except the slide show of images running in front of your mind’s eye, asking to be chosen for this next line, and you, rejecting one after another. Like a director seeking the perfect lead actor for a debut play, you think it’s make or break.

It is and it isn’t.

Know this. It matters not which book you are writing. You can dig for your best now, or you can wait for later and find your treasure then. But I can tell you, wherever you retreat now, at whichever point you let yourself off, you will reach this same crossroads on the next one, and the next, and the next, until you push through.

And once again, you will have a choice, hide or dig in.

Treasure, anyone?


Welcome to a new feature on my blog called Dear Jane…letters to an aspiring writer. The concept came to me in a moment of inspiration while making toast. I hope you will find it insightful and encouraging as you develop your writing gifts.