July 19th, 2011 / 5:59 pm
Craft Notes


I need the structure, or an urge to the structure, a tickling vision, a hint or itch or organic flux to the structure (this is why I teach so many scaffolding-of-fiction based classes—we all have our biases) to begin the writing, to flow. What do you need? What do you need for the click to kick in (Brick: It’s like a switch, clickin’ off in my head. Turns the hot light off and the cool one on, and all of a sudden there’s peace.) ?

What sends you on your writing way?

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  1. Brett Jenkins

      for me, it often begins with somebody i know saying something that resonates with me & conjures writable images. barring that, having a beer or two sometimes works.

  2. Frank Tas

      For me, the click happens a week or two before the writing. The three ways I can be clicked are:-Succesfully think of or see something that makes me really sad, really frightened, really confused, or laugh a lot.
      -Hear about an event or situation that has an idealistic/everything’s perfect appeal and find a loophole in it (i.e. committing suicide by attending Burning Man completely unprepared).
      -Have someone prompt me. For example, most of the stuff I’ve written for contests on this site has come up immediately after hearing contest guidelines, and it’s typically written in less than an hour.
      As for novels, it typically clicks when I have an idea, a basic concept, and I can then think of that idea or concept put into enough hypotheticals for 40-60k words.
      Any sort of amphetamine helps too.

  3. MFBomb

      *Vision (aesthetic and political consciousness rolled together)

      *Voice (1st or 3rd, since I like 3rd POVs that are somewhat inflected)

      *Tone/Acoustics (see below)

      “JDD When did you study music therapy?

      MR When I was doing the research for an
      interview with Tom Waits, because certain
      songs of his make me feel
      better, even though they’re very discordant and not really soothing. In
      my research I found that you can reorganize peoples’ brain waves with
      music, and with sounds. This is done with the autistic: distressing
      sounds are filtered out
      and sounds that seem to soothe are heightened. They found that some
      people responded so well to the musical therapy that they were able to
      speak for the first time in their lives. I learned you can evoke
      emotions with the sounds of words, regardless of the words
      themselves or what they mean. You can put that to use by writing words
      with sounds
      that are consoling and welcoming, when in fact the words themselves are
      depicting a horror, so you can bring that horror in closer or you can do
      the opposite. Sometimes we read things that are perfectly all right,
      but just don’t seem to sing. There are dead sentences in them. Sometimes
      the problem is they’re acoustically incorrect. But you have to
      develop an ear for it. I think it’s good to have an appreciation of
      music, especially classical music.”


  4. ditrapano


  5. postitbreakup

      Boy, you’re, you’re a real alcoholic!

  6. JKL

      A lot of times reading makes me write. A page of strange, beautiful prose floors my blood and leaves me groping for ecstasy. 

  7. Guestagain

      déjà vu, a girl trying to steal some other girls licks, unrequited love (is there any other kind?) losing everything (again) a fly cleaning its eyes with its paws akimbo, faces frozen with introspection, a mistaken sunset, occasionally an episode of The Nanny with Yetta

  8. Corey Zeller

      let’s be honest…coke is probably better than weed to write.  Coke and a copy of New York Tyrant. 

  9. Corey Zeller

      A word.

      It usually takes me wanting to use a single word I found interesting while reading to start me writing.

  10. Corey Zeller

      There are also basic requirements for me like time, cigarettes, coffee, my son not crying, and not being tired from work

  11. bobby

      I miss cigarettes. And coke, kind of. 

  12. Russ Woods

      Usually a word or phrase I hear or read somewhere.  Sometimes reading other poetry.  Listening to music helps me get in the right mindset for a certain piece, and different albums/artists yield different results.  Sometimes just “sitting down to write” and coming up with weird arbitrary rambly shit yields something somewhat salvageable after heavy editing.

  13. Nicholas Liu


  14. Corey Zeller

      Honestly, I haven’t done coke in a long time and my lungs are horrible from smoking a pack a day for years.

      I just have a real hard time writing when I don’t smoke. 

      It is all in my head, I know, but still…

  15. Shannon

      For me there’s almost always a word or phrase that gets stuck in my head and then I write things. Not always directly related to the word or phrase it just happens.

  16. Corey Zeller

      Which makes me sort of want to put together a list of things writers needed to have with them when they wrote.  Either a substance or artifact.

  17. Corey Zeller

      I agree.  For example, today I took the kids I work with on a walk in the woods and the word “obelisk” was written on a sign with birds illustrated on it.  So I began to write this…for some reason using “thy” throughout just because I liked the way “Thy poltergeist” sounded.

      Thy poltergeist; thy obelisk and seismic; thy registrar of snow and happening; tube and sorry; gave and limbed and flush. Thou thy; thou often confused with a door and touched as such; asked as such; with all of thy known now; perished in known; and sufficiently so; as if thy parts had tiny black lines graphing forth to illustrate thy body; thy basal ganglia; thy amygdala; thy pleura and thymus.  Thy abridged; and gave away; with so much; cutout of; where it should.  Be.  How they had to dig; where; there were no eyes; where so many white holes; inexplicably; still are; and are; thy; soft enough to slit through; and bright as any pink could ever be.

  18. Corey Zeller

      …so now I have this weird skeleton to either mess around with or throw away.

  19. Leapsloth14

      Mailer said one beer to prime the engine

  20. Leapsloth14

      Mailer said one beer to prime the engine

  21. Corey Zeller

      …speaking of, did you ever see that video of Mailer fighting Rip Torn.

      And: what kind of beer do you think he was drinking when he was writing?

  22. Leapsloth14


  23. Leapsloth14

      I have seen that video many times. And since I have read several Mailer bios, I assume a very ordinary beer. An American beer. Whatever. But he has years where he would smoke a marijuana plant from root to stamen and lock himself (and sometimes a young lady) in a sensory deprivation chamber (he owned one) and just trip out. So he probably drank at least a few dank beers, is my point, not well made.

  24. Shannon

      I vote always mess around with it and never throw it away. I also love that you used the words obelisk and poltergeist near to each other.