Monday, May 26, 2008

Envy can be fruitful - Aarsen

I just finished the latest Harlan Coban book and when I put it down, I couldn't stop thinking about it. The book was a like a chapter by chapter adventure with so many twists and turns that each time I thought I had solved the puzzle, something else would come at me. He wrote about characters who had layer upon layer of secrets and when he was all done, all the secrets intertwined and all the loose ends tied up.

As I was reading, I would put the book down from time to time not only enthralled, but also suffering one of the seven deadlies. Envy. Envy with a capital E. How did he do it? . How did he keep all these intertwining story lines straight in his own mind? I was jealous of his ability to entertain and to keep me guessing and thinking and reading. So to get envy out of my mind I imagined him pacing, staring out the window, dropping into his computer chair with a sigh of disgust, scribbling endless notes and pinning them to an overflowing bulletin board. In short, I had to picture him doing what I do when I write a book. I needed to do this to remind me that the stories that come, in the neat package of a published book, don't just happen. I need a reminder of the anguish behind the words. That any time an author commits to putting words on a page, they are entering a world fraught with anxiety and struggle and blinking cursors that beat out a steady rhythm that mocks their efforts to come up with new, fresh and original.

I need to think that of other authors or I would be too hard on myself. There are too many times in my writing day that I go through the pacing, the sighing, the blinking cursor. I used to think this was a sign that I don't have anything to say, but I'm realizing this is simply part of the writing.

But I've also realized that Envy isn't such a bad thing to indulge in when I read an especially gripping or moving book. Envy often sends me back to these same books dissecting and trying to figure out how and why this book held my attention and made me want to keep reading.

And then after analyzing and dissecting, try to apply that to my own work. As a writer I'm always learning and trying to do better. So envying can be turned to good, if I"m using it as a prod to make me better.

Carolyne Aarsen


Dorene Meyer said...

Hey Carolyne,
I just started reading a book by Ray Blackston called, "Flabbergasted." It is laugh-out-loud funny. But what really blew me away was how he introduced his main characters in the "acknowledgements/forward" portion of the book - brilliant! I think I was mostly admiring - but perhaps just a tad envious also as I wondered aloud to my husband - "can I steal this idea?" But I think my conclusion was that, no, I shouldn't copy this particular technique. This is just a time to sit back and admire another author's brilliance.

Marci said...

Yeah, I think we've all been there. Sitting in a classroom with Rudy Wiebe and 9 other very talented writers made it happen for me, every day last week. But then there are those moments when you realize your voice is just as unique and valid and then "the master" says, "this is good." And your heart beats a little faster. And then you realize where it's all coming from - who "the Master" really is - and all you can do is praise Him.

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