Monday, October 25, 2010

Take No Regrets

You know the old saying: Take no prisoners? This post is about taking no regrets--to the grave, that is. I've found with my writing that as much as I want to be published again, I want something else even more: to get it right.
To get my writing the best it can be, both in the story itself and in the craft.
And that means taking chances; shutting down that internal censor who when I get a nudge of an idea, whispers in my ear, "That's stupid. No one would want to read that."
One of my favorite writing manuals is The Modern Writer's Workshop by Stephen Koch, and in the first chapter, the chapter about ideas and how a writer's imagination leads to those "crazy places", Koch counsels not to let your "spark" flare and die at the voice of your internal editor. It's hard-- not to listen to that little voice. Because that's the same voice who saves us from ridicule. It's the same voice that keeps us homogenized with the rest of our "group", whoever that group may be. And it's the voice I try to block out most days, especially in the beginning of projects.
The painting above is by Ivan Albright and it's in the Chicago Art Institute. I had the opportunity to stare at it a long time last week on a drizzly Chicago day. It took the artist a decade to create it. It's incredible, isn't it? The marred Victorian door, the tombstone doorsill and the tattered funeral wreath. And look at the aging hand on the doorframe. The title of the painting is That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do. It's interpreted as a concrete image commenting on the brevity of life.
It worked for me.
Silence the Censor. Take no regrets.


Jacqueline Seewald said...


You speak straight to my heart. Several years back, I made a very difficult decision. I gave up a tenured position as an educational media specialist/school librarian so that I would have a chance to write fulltime. Here's what convinced me to make this decision: I'd always wanted to write but my time for it was limited, I was then the same age as my mother when she died, and third, my husband who has always been very supportive, urged me to do it and not worry about money. And so I have. I won't die with regrets wondering about what might have been. I can give writing efforts my all. Now I just have to hope for readers!

All the best,

Jacqueline Seewald
TEA LEAVES AND TAROTS CARDS, historical romance

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Rebbie: First, that's an awesome painting. Second, you've reminded us of what really matters--our love of the craft. Like Jacqueline, I quit teaching to have time to write, after my DH had urged me for years to do so. I never looked back. Like you, I'm always anxious to get a novel completed and submit it, but I've learned to be more patient, and take my time with revisions, and set it aside (the hardest part), and re-read, which slows the process, but in the end, I know the story has a better change of taking wings. It's hard for a Type-A personality to be patient, but I've learned it's part of the process. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject.

Anonymous said...

Jacqueline and Joyce: Thanks for the comments. And like you, Joyce, I get impatient with myself and the process--and need those reminders about perspective. Glad you both got something from the post. :)

Angela Ackerman said...

I read another post on silencing the censor today--this is such an important topic!

I think as writers, we need to not hold back. The best novels are ones where the author risks everything to get the story right. That's what leads to authentic and memorable novels!

I'm a firm believer in never living with regret. :)

All the best!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Patricia Stoltey said...

That's such good advice. I like the idea of letting our minds get to the crazy places.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments, Angela and Patricia. I think we authors can use constant reminders about this. That censor has a powerful voice!

Anonymous said...

Readers, if you'd like to read more about Art and the Art of Writing, check out my personal blog at

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