The Prompter Room

For Friday, May 26, 2017:


Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about.  Be willing to be split open.


[Note: This book is one of my favorites for writing inspiration.  At the very least it is thought-provoking while always thoughtful.  Some of her prompts are fun and silly, inviting the writer out to play, and some are humorous.  You may also find Goldberg’s words to be life-changing.  I highly recommend this book!]


The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, November 10, 2015:

“To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.”

Allen Ginsberg

Yesterday I heard the story of a friend’s colleague who wants to write a book, but who spends all her free time doing research instead.  Every day she visits at least one library or bookstore.  Every weekend she travels farther afield to peruse the shelves of libraries and bookstores, coming away with stacks of books each time.  She’s taken whole weeks to do the same.  Apparently this has been going on for years, but as the books pile up she hasn’t written a word.

Now I certainly don’t want to poo-poo research, or going to libraries and bookstores.  Some of my best times are spent pursuing those avocations!  But there comes a time when, if one truly wants to write a book, one must start putting words together.

I’ve suggested time and again, here and elsewhere, that it doesn’t matter what you write, but that you write.  I think one of the reasons ‘wannabe writers’ don’t is because of fear: a fear of failure, a fear they’re not good enough, the fear of starting something they won’t finish.

I wonder, too, if some are afraid of their own voice.  I wonder if the woman of research above has so many other voices in her head now, her own may be lost or disappearing.  Or she compares her voice with others and, at some level — conscious or, more likely, unconscious — doesn’t like what she hears inside.

If that’s the case (and I suspect we’ve all been there at one or more points in our writing lives), then we have to reach the point where it just doesn’t matter what others think.  We have to believe in ourselves, believe in the value of our own words, in order to go forward.

That’s a lot easier said than done, of course!  But that’s one reason for these daily prompts: I want to encourage and support others’ words and writing because I believe in every single one of us, each of you. Consider your writing a safe place, where you don’t need to worry how your voice sounds, or what others will hear.  Once you can jump over that hurdle, you’ll be well on your way.

Go Set a … Mockingbird?

As a daughter of the south, I am seriously conflicted about whether or not to read Harper Lee’s ‘new’ book, Go Set a Watchman. As a writer and a lover of good literature, I know I will read it – eventually – but I know it won’t be any time soon.

Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is among my top five all-time favorite novels, and the movie of the same name occupies the same place in my movie-watching pantheon, so I want to live with the images I grew up with and loved most of my life a little while longer. For one thing, I always had my maternal grandfather in my mind whenever I watched the movie’s Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, because Daddy Tom was the equivalent of Atticus but in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was an architect, not a lawyer, but his personal and corporate human rights’ work was just as impressive and life-changing as the fictional character’s, and his example made him a real-life hero in my eyes. Daddy Tom will always be one of my heroes, but I want to keep Atticus as a hero, too.

For those who don’t know, apparently GSAW paints Atticus Finch in a much different light from TKAM. Listening to various pundits, and reading a myriad of reviews, both good and bad, both before and immediately after the book came out earlier this week, I take it that Atticus is now a racist. He denigrates African Americans (‘Negroes’ in the lexicon of the day) and wants them, as a group, ‘kept in their place’ (my quotes). Based on what I’ve heard and read, this older Atticus – now in his 70s – believes ‘Negroes are still in their childhood’ (not my quotes) as a people.

I think one of the reasons so many people are having such a hard time wrapping their minds around this ‘new’ Finch is because they’re equating – intentionally or not – the fictional character with the actor Gregory Peck. I can’t remember now if I read TKAM first or saw the movie first – probably because I’ve seen the movie and read the book so many times – but I freely admit that Gregory Peck soon came to equal Atticus for me, and I know – I know! – that’s one reason I don’t want to read the new book yet.

Peck has always been one of my favorite actors and I know – I know! – he’s not really Atticus Finch, but I can’t read GSAW until I get to the point where they’re not interchangeable anymore. The thing is (I remind myself), I don’t think Gregory Peck is the same person as the young clergyman he portrayed in the movie Keys of the Kingdom, which was also based on the book of the same name about the uprising in China in, I think, the earliest part of the 20th century. Nor is he the Hitlerite character in the movie that scared me so badly I can’t think of the name of it just now. Nor is he the characters he played in Alfred Hitchcock movies. And on and on.

So I should know better, right? And I think I’m well-read enough, and have written and edited enough of my own and others’ fictional works, that I should be able to jump this literary hurdle with relative ease. But this one’s as high as those track and field monsters in my real-life gym classes, and I’m having as hard a time now as I did then.

Continue reading “Go Set a … Mockingbird?”