Writing is Acting

I had to write a really tough, emotionally draining chapter last week. This week, I need to do some research and turn it into more pages that will be just as difficult. When I wrote my first practice novels, I avoided conflict. There could be a misunderstanding or a problem, but I immediately fixed it. I still do that sometimes. I did it this time on the difficult chapter. It took me a few hours after I’d stopped writing to realize I’d done it again and it wasn’t going to work. Then I thought about how to fix it. I’m still thinking about it.

In life, I dislike conflict, confrontation, even debate. I’ve taught Shakespeare for years, and yet when a friend told me she does not believe Shakespeare wrote the plays (she read a book about it that convinced her) I did not argue. Even though I’ve read dozens of books on the topic, listened to Shakespeare scholar lectures, and have myself lectured frequently on why the anti-Stratfordians are wrong, and why the Bard really did write those plays. And yet…when my friend said that, as passionate as I am on the topic, I didn’t challenge her. So, see, I really really dislike conflict. YES is my favorite word. Most of the time it turns out okay.

Which is why, when it comes to my characters, who are my creations and who are under my control, I want everything to go well for them. Despite the fact that a book without conflict is a boring book, I keep trying to solve their problems the minute they arrive. Some chapters, scenes, sentences are harder to write than others. I like to skip those. I would if I could. But I can’t so I’ve learned the hard way how to write the tough stuff.

I think a difficult scene through before I write it. Then I write it in longhand. For some reason writing in longhand curled up on my cozy chair helps me spill the tough stuff. It’s almost like I’m pouring out my crisis in diary form. It’s not my crisis, but I have to, for those pages, pretend that it is. It’s the only way. For me, writing is acting. That’s where I go and that’s where I stay until I’m out of words for the day.

You know that cliche about how writing is easy, just open a vein and spill the blood? For me it’s not that. It’s walking the walk inside my character. Step by step.


  1. I like that you write the tough stuff in longhand – there is something personal and safe about putting pen to paper. I find it helps me to work something out if I write it down, let it percolate, and go back to it with fresh eyes.


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