By Catherine Hedge
For five days, I moped around the house, stalling. I was stuck on my next scene for my Southern novel, Momma Liddy and Me. I sorted my stationery collection. It goes back 15 years or more as I’m a notoriously bad pen pal. I crocheted a scrubbing pad from produce bag netting. (First time. It works great and goes in the dishwasher!) I spent hours playing Chutes and Ladders with my grandson. Still….Nothing. If I ever needed Leonard Bishop to bully me into writing, this week was it.
I knew I was violating his most basic rule. “If you want to be a writer, you have to write!”
Marie Loughin said it best in our critique group last week. Marie had been stalling, too, worried she didn’t have enough of her new story thought out. “But when I started writing, and the ideas just came, I remembered, ‘Oh! This is how it works!’” She’s right. Her first scene was tremendous!
Mr. Bishop used to tell us we would never run out of material, “The writer is an ever flowing spring of story ideas.” But he also said the Good Writing Fairy wasn’t going to come down and smack us on the head with her wand. It still took us sitting down and pushing that pen across the page.
So, in desperation, I went back to my greatest hits list, Bishop’s Best: Seventy-seven Top Writing Hints, quotes I had assembled over the years from writing class. As I read through them, I could hear his voice resonating, see his finger jabbing the air, and remember the writing passion he evoked in all of us.
- Take Chances! If it’s interesting and clear, people will read it! (12/19/96)
- A good story is like a motorcycle. All the parts move together and move forward. (7-8-99)
- Go overboard! You can always swim back! (i.e. Go ahead and be melodramatic. You’d get out what you wanted to say and could always edit the excess later.) (9/9/99)
- In a short story, you drop a pebble in water and follow the rings across. In a novel, you drop the pebble and follow the rings at the same time you follow the pebble down. (repercussions) 8/12/99
- Documentation: Don’t stick it in like a postage stamp. Figure out how to do it interestingly. (6/23/94)
- Don’t confine yourself in writing. Take the girdle off and put it down during editing. (1/30/97)
- Patient writers don’t settle for what they wanted when they began. Instead, they discover more than they anticipated they had…and write on that. (11/12/98)
- Effects cover a multitude of defects. (12/10/93)
- Every writer has a realm of strengths. Some have a pie. Some only a few slices. (2/6/97)
- Remember when you wrote something excellent. When you do it once, you can do it again (6/5/98)
- If you have the skills to write and a sense of the dramatic, you will get published! (1/6/94)
Thank you, Mr. Bishop. I especially like that last one! So, here I go…desk clear, fingers flexed, deep breath… I can…I will…I must. This Day, We Write! *
(Good luck to those of you who wrote to us about starting your first novel. It’s a grand adventure!)