Sunday, December 16, 2007

Beacons of Light

Over the past few years we've had the good fortune of swimming with the help of beacons whose light has kept us from venturing too far into murky waters.

As 2007 comes to an end and we pull ourselves out of the water to dry off over the next few weeks, I'd like to thank all of the writers--the extraordinarily generous beacons of light--whose insights and thoughts on writing have enabled us to find our way to new shores.

I'm so grateful to all of you who have taken the time and trouble to shed light on your writing process, and I want to thank, too, the growing number of readers who remain anonymous yet who return every week to join other Wordswimmers, helping us swim to a place that we could never have imagined months ago.

Perhaps these excerpts from interviews that have appeared on Wordswimmer will illuminate your path in the coming weeks and serve as beacons of light to help you keep swimming in 2008.

Paul Acampora: I think my writing process looks like the work plan of someone who is very quietly trying to build a house at night without a flashlight. (from:

Steve Almond: Most good writing has an obsessive quality, a sense of urgency that you can’t fake. Because the author needs to be obsessive. It’s this intensity of desire that most readers are actually responding to. (from:

Leslie Bulion: Of course, there have been times when I’m not writing at all for one reason or another. I don’t worry about it. In the life of a writer, life intervenes. I give myself permission to hike, climb, or pedal instead of swim. (from:

Crissa-Jean Chappell: It’s important to be a good listener. By that, I mean, pay attention to your protagonist. Don’t simply move her through the plot like a chess piece on a board. She might do things that surprise you. (from:

Carolyn Crimi: I’ve lived through many ups and downs in this crazy career and I can safely say it’s impossible to control it. All I can do is write the best story I’m capable of. (from:

Sarah Dessen: The weird thing about writing, for me, is that there is no one formula that works. Every book---God, every DAY---is different. (from:

Sherry Garland: Occasionally, an individual scene in a novel will ... arrive in a burst of inspiration. These bursts seem to always come to me in the middle of the night when I am trying to get to sleep. (from:

Louise Hawes: All writers need to read: writing without reading is like trying to grow without food. (from:

Carrie Jones: We have to be willing to say "yes," to take risks with our characters and our plots and our language. (from:

Kathe Koja: You gotta do your laps each day, whether you feel like it or not.... You just sit there and try to work. Because that’s how the job gets done.

J. Irvin Kuns: Feeling safe is copping out. (from:

J. Patrick Lewis: It’s not the destination that’s the milk and silk and sun, it’s the journey. (from:

Lois Lowry: I love the feel of words going together with the right cadence and meaning, when things fall into place and you know you have done it the best you can. (from:

Carolyn Marsden: I've learned to work anywhere. That includes at red lights, in the dentist's chair, waiting in line to register my car, or on rough seas on a cruise. (from:

Norma Fox Mazer: I learned long ago that only fear would stop me. (from:

Christopher Meeks: Energy can dissipate from a story in many ways. One way is if there's not a clear dramatic question. (from:

Donna Jo Napoli: If I'm on a first draft and I have nothing to say, I just write junk. I don't criticize myself, I don't judge. I merely write. And pretty soon the writing just comes on its own. (from:

Barbara O’Connor: I love that rush of feeling when everything just clicks into place–the voice, the character, the story–and you know where you’re going and you can hardly get the words down fast enough. (from:

Shelley Pearsall: Each book seems to push me to my own limits as a writer: I can’t go any further than this, I insist. I can’t describe any more. I can’t tell it any better. And then, without fail, each story takes me one breath deeper. (from:

Randy Powell: What I’ve found is that every time I finish a book (or at least put it aside for a while) and start up a new one, I go through the same paradoxical battles.... Each book seems to have to find its own way to get written. (from:

Graham Salisbury: I have long believed in the magic of writing. Something special happens when you sit down and start to work–I call that something magic–things come out that you never expect. (from:

Steve Schnur: We can’t impel insight, but we can labor at artistry, and the more present we are, the more actively engaged in the craft, the more likely we are to capture those moments of illumination that visit us unbidden. (from:

Joyce Sidman: We are programmed to produce! There is nothing more wonderful than working on a project you believe in, and nothing worse than wondering whether you’ll ever have the idea for such a project again. (from:

Cynthia Leitich Smith: I generally toss the first draft. It's whole purpose is just to acclimate to the water. Then I struggle to stay in the floating place until I have a whole draft that's in good enough shape to knead. I call that the "second first draft." (from:

Sonya Sones: I take a two mile "swim" around the neighborhood, and after awhile it gets to be like a meditation, and I start jotting down the ideas for poems that come into my head. (from:

Joyce Sweeney: If you keep moving, you can stay afloat; if you hold still, you go under. That means you have to always be changing and growing as a writer, trying new things... (from:

Sarah Weeks: I like to make my characters talk and see where that leads me. Sometimes the route is circuitous, but eventually I always seem to get there. (from:

Jane Yolen: Alone? I am never alone. I have all those characters yapping away at me in my head, arguing for me to spend time with their stories. (from:

Thanks again to all the writers who helped Wordswimmer stay afloat this past year.

Keep swimming!

P.S. - Wordswimmer will be taking a break from the water for the next two weeks and will dive back in December 30th.


Barbara O'Connor said...

Nice post, Bruce - and Happy New Year

Bruce said...

Thanks, Barbara. You were one of the first who leaped into the water!

Jennifer said...

Thank you for this round up... I'm looking forward to a hot cup of tea (or a few) and some good reading for the next couple of weeks. Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Very nicely said. I'm the kind that that beats himself up if a day goes by without writing.

Mary Hershey said...

I love this! Thanks so much for putting this all in one place for us, Bruce. I need a constant reminder to honor my process.

Mary Hershey