The Journal, Saturday, August 4

Hey Folks,

In today’s “Of Interest,” the second entry is about what one writer does when he’s stuck in a story and unsure what to do next. If you read it and an impending sense of boredom doesn’t sweep over you, you’re probably a plotter and/or an outliner. And that’s fine.

I want to say I disagree with the guy, but as Dean often reminds us, every writer is different. I will say that his post enabled me to understand how some writers can view writing as pure drudgery.

I added the entry to “Of Interest” today to provide a counterpoint. Because frankly, when I get stuck in a story, I do the same thing he does: I take a walk.

But that’s where the similarity ends.

When I get stuck in a story, it’s always for one of two reasons: Either I’ve written past the scene, or the realization descends on me that I’ve tied myself into a knot trying to “figure out” what will happen next.

When I’ve written past the scene, I read back a few sentences and find the cliffhanger. Then I either take a short break (usually) or just go ahead and start the next scene or chapter.

But when I realize I’ve balled myself up trying to figure out what happens next, I take a walk. Or I go read. Or I watch TV for a half-hour or so. Anything to get myself away from the story.

So the difference is, I walk or do other things to intentionally distance myself from the story, most often to pry my conscious mind off it. Mark Alpert walks to give himself time to focus on the story and figure out what happens next.

Topic: Conscious and Subconscious Mind as Children

I see the conscious and subconscious mind as children and siblings. I love them both (really) but for different reasons. Like real children, they have different talents, different things they’re naturally good at.

I consider myself fortunate in both ways, conscious and subconscious.

My conscious mind is practical to a fault, extremely critical and highly analytical. It learns easily, and it (I keep wanting to write “she”) doggedly clings to a problem until it figures out a solution.

I’ve found my conscious, critical mind useful in everything from understanding new computer programs to copyediting to making important choices in every area of my life. Like politics or keeping snakes out of my yard (yes, I see the digression) or zealously safeguarding my little cat.

Pretty much everything except writing fiction.

My conscious mind is also constantly hungry, and it eats (absorbs new information) pretty much all the time when I’m awake. It kicks into high gear when I’m studying a new technique in a workshop or studying a bit of writing to understand how the author blew my socks off.

But the other sibling, my subconscious, is fun-loving and easy going. It jokes around a lot, and it often says things that others find unusual or oddly inappropriate. To which my response is usually from one of my Brooklyn characters: “Hey, mea culpa. Now kindly remove yourself from my line of sight until you develop a sense of humor or otherwise lighten the hell up.”

On the other hand, I very seldom find anything anyone else says “inappropriate” as long as it isn’t also unauthentic. I’m not patient with those whose baseline currency is innuendo, half-truths, outright lies and utterances based on ignorance of logic and fact. Oh, and woe be to the poor soul who, in my presence, utters a clichéd soundbite and presents it as an original thought.

But again I digress.

The conscious-mind sibling is also a bully to its brother.

There he is, sitting in the middle of the room, barefoot and in minimal clothing, his little face smudged with some unidentified substance, his hair tousled, playing happily with a new story. And having entirely too much fun.

If there’s one thing of which the conscious-mind sibling is absolutely certain, it’s that nothing worthwhile should be fun.

She barges into the room. Behind her back, she’s holding a straightjacket. “Hey, what’cha doing?”

The little guy looks up and shrugs. “Just havin’ fun. Makin’ sfuff up, tellin’ myself stories.”

She frowns, and storm clouds well in her eyes. “Fun? Is that it? Telling yourself stories? What about your poor readers?” She leans over him, points over his shoulder. “That isn’t a complete sentence. It’s a fragment. You’re also using the word ‘that’ way too much. And isn’t a paragraph supposed to continue until you finish discussing the topic? And your language isn’t flowery enough. This will never sell. No way.”

Innocently, he looks up and grins. “Maybe not, but I’m sure havin’ a good time!”

“Um, writing isn’t about having a good time? It’s about drudgery and suffering for your art? How do you not know that!” She whips out the straightjacket. “Here, this will get you back to the straight and narrow.”

He recoils in fear. “I ain’t puttin’ that thing on!”

She springs. “Oh yes you are!”

And just in time, he leaps to his feet and races past her out the door.

She whirls around. “You get back here! Where exactly do you think you’re going, anyway?”

His voice filters in from the living room. “I’m gonna take a walk!”

The door slams.


No fiction writing today, probably. If I write, I’ll report the numbers tomorrow. We’re headed out of town to an estate sale and other things in Sierra Vista.

Of Interest

See “Behind-The-Scenes Look at a Murder Interrogation” at

See “The Walking Cure” at

Talk with you again soon.

The Writing

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 910 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 910

Writing of Nick Spalding 3 (novel, tentative title)

Day 1…… 2000 words. Total words to date…… 2000
Day 2…… 1000 words. Total words to date…… 1000
Day 3…… 3597 words. Total words to date…… 6597
Day 4…… 4538 words. Total words to date…… 11135
Day 5…… 3016 words. Total words to date…… 14151
Day 6…… 2534 words. Total words to date…… 16685
Day 7…… 3859 words. Total words to date…… 20544
Day 8…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 9409
Total fiction words for the year………… 257706
Total nonfiction words for the month… 1970
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 100256
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 357712

Calendar Year 2018 Novels to Date………………………… 5
Calenday Year 2018 Novellas to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2018 Short Stories to Date……… 11
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 31
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 6
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………………… 193