Will You Hear?

A poem on the power of music.

 

Will you hear?

It floats through the air

The sound splashes like a waterfall

Tumbling over the rapids

music

Will you be silent?

There is a gentle noise

Gathering up like the clouds

Ready for the rain to spill over

 

Will you be still?

And feel the vibrating floors

It moves through the ground

And touches every wall

 

Will you not see?

The fingers that trace the white and black keys

They press in perfect time

And feel the melody flow

 

Will you listen?

The careful sound of bow over string

The hands touch the handle

Pulling it across to make the deep notes come alive

 

Will you close your eyes?

Listening to the mist

That echoes around your heart

Pulling you away from the pain

 

Will you rest?

And let the worries fall

Into the stream the music weaves

And carries away in the notes of a hymn

 

Will you come?

Away with the sound of the music

To the very heights of the mountain

Where you sleep in the garden waiting

 

Will you hear?

The birds singing

The cello ringing

The tune your heart has wanted to hear

Will you hear?

The rhythmic calls

Of one note to another

As they take the song away

 

Will you hear?

The piano plays in your heart

The viola to please the soul

The flute to ease the wounds

 

Will you hear?

The song of the weary

The hearts of the torn

Come running away with the sound

 

Sandbagging

“We build our sandbag walls to brace ourselves against the onslaught of negative feedback. Yes, writers are an insecure bunch.”

Beginning writers make a lot of mistakes. From improper pac­ing to shallow characters, young writers are going to make mistakes. It’s the only way to grow. All of these weaknesses can be overcome; however, in my opinion, there is one weakness–the great­est weakness of young writers—which can derail any possibility of improvement.

The biggest weakness I’ve seen in beginning writers (and I’m guilty of it too) is sandbagging.

Sandbagging-in-writing

Now what is “sandbagging”? Sandbagging is building up your defenses and lowering the expectations of another person. This al­most always manifests itself when a young writer sends me part of their story to read. They’ll say something along the lines of, “Here you go, it’s absolutely horrible, you’ll understand once you read it.”

I used to do this myself, but I’ve stopped (or I’ve at least tried to stop). Yet so many young writers feel the need to lower their reader’s expectations before they read it; that way, if they don’t like it—we theorize—that’s okay because I know it’s terrible already and it was nothing special anyway.

In my experience, there are two reasons writers sandbag (even if they don’t consciously realize they’re doing it). There are those of us who sandbag, but only to peo­ple who we know will be merciful (or at least won’t ridicule us for our writing.) Thus, when we hear positive feedback after the low expecta­tions we’ve set, we seem like writing gurus.

“Wow! She is such a good writer but she thinks she’s terrible! She must know something I don’t know!”

Sandbagging, in this case, is really an expression of pride, I be­lieve. We look good when we criticize our writing and others praise it.

The other reason for sandbagging is that we are afraid. We want to downplay our writing to keep ourselves protected from any criti­cism that may be lurking in the bushes. We build our sandbag walls to brace ourselves against the onslaught of negative feedback. Yes, we writers are an insecure bunch.

Whether you sandbag for the first reason, the second reason, or both, it needs to stop.

Now, what’s so wrong with sandbagging? If sandbagging really was just a mechanism to brace against criticism, then I might say that it’s okay, but sandbagging is rarely as simple as that.

 

Unrealistic:

Sandbagging is hardly ever realistic. If we want to improve as writers, we have to stay real. Sandbagging usually involves making up problems that aren’t there, or overreacting to real issues. This can either be out of fear, pride, or both. Whatever combination, when we sandbag, we weave a protective web of self-deception. Consciously or subconsciously, we want to hide from the truth, because we fear that truth will be bad, or horribly depressing. That won’t help us improve. We don’t want to be blind to our mistakes or our strengths.

As a general rule of thumb, things are never as bad as they seem, nor are they as good as we think. Keep that in the back of your mind when evaluating your own writing, and try to objectively evalu­ate where the weaknesses are. Objectively critiquing our own writ­ing is extremely difficult, which is why finding others to read and critique your writing is paramount to your development. Speaking of others…

 

Inconsiderate:

Sandbagging is inconsiderate to others. They don’t want to hear how deplorable your novel is before you shove it off on them to read. You’re pretty much manipulating them into going easy on your novel, which you don’t want! They may overlook faults in the story because they know how negative you already feel towards it. Your poor critiquer may feel the need to reassure you that your novel has potential, rather than provide you accurate feedback. So please, be

We build our sandbag walls to brace ourselves against the onslaught of negative feedback. Yes, writers are an insecure bunch.

Be nice and don’t put your reader in an awkward position by sandbag­ging them.

 sandbags

Weak:

Sandbagging is weak and fearful. Don’t be weak and fearful.

“But I am weak and fearful…”

Oh! There you go again! It’s weak and fearful to say that you’re weak and fearful. That’s the easy way out. You don’t have to be that way. You get to choose!

Even if your writing is astonishingly deplorable (which, if you’re reading this, I highly doubt it is) there is still no reason to be insecure about yourself or your writing. Everyone has to start somewhere, and you have to write to get better. You don’t need to apologize for where you are; in the same way, you shouldn’t brag for where you are. It’s two sides of the same coin.

 

Harms your development:

One of the most important aspects to becoming good at any­thing, is attitude. A positive attitude of excitement leads to hope and motivation. You can focus on enjoying writing for the sake of writing, and not get caught up in the quality of it. This allows you to achieve the quantity you need to produce quality. Negativity shuts down in­spiration and creativity. Don’t be ashamed of your writing, no matter how good or “bad” you think it is. You can’t afford it.

Stop with the sandbagging. Be realistic, and realize the reality is that it takes time and hard work to become good. But if you allow yourself to indulge in negative thoughts about your writing, you will lose the desire to improve and become good. It’s hard to start the climb to greatness when the wall looks insurmountable. You have to start at the beginning, and take it one step at a time.

If you stay positive, and keep practicing and working hard, it’s not a matter of if you will become a great writer, but when.

Of Sandpaper And Stories

“Details. Pay attention to details.”

Of Sandpaper And Stories

Patching drywall and smoothly patching drywall are two completely different animals.

I think I created a hybrid creature when I taught myself how to patch the lovely hole an unwieldy piece of furniture created in my wall. You can tell it’s patched if you pay attention, but unless you look closely it looks all right.

My first attempt at patching didn’t go so well. The layers were too thick, I hadn’t spent enough time sanding, and, well, it looked awful. Definitely an amateur job. So I grabbed the sandpaper, tub of mud, and went back to work.

While sanding and then smoothing on another layer of drywall mud, the thought struck me just how similar patching a wall is to patching a story.

A lousy fix is glaringly noticeable in both forms, just like a careful, well-done patching job blends into the wall or the text like part of the original design.

I had a wall to patch. I also have a novel. It’s needed a lot of “patching” – scenes cut, scenes added, more layers of depth smoothed into the main plot, the characters, and all the tiny little threads woven throughout the story. If I mess with one, I might as well have messed with them all.

It’s so easy to toss something in or pull something out, whether it be a phrase or an entire chapter, and then be done with it. Just like it would have been easy for me to leave the nasty patch on my wall and forget it (except I’m a perfectionist, so it would have bugged me daily).

But simplicity usually doesn’t equal quality.

How does one go about smoothly patching a story?

Details. Pay attention to details. I find the highlighting function of my word processor very handy for this kind of editing. Highlight the main thing you want to cut, add, or somehow change. Then go through the surrounding section and highlight any collateral damage “edges” that will need fixed after the main change. Make the changes, smoothing those edges and then make a note of certain things you need to keep an eye out for further along in the story, the offhand bit of dialogue referencing that scene you just cut out, or a good spot to add a reference to that shocking revelation you just added. Even one misplaced or wrongly-left sentence dealing with a plot thread that no longer exists, or nonexistent references that should be there about a new thread, count.

Just like my wall patch. Every bit of mudding (adding or removing text), sanding (smoothing away the roughness), and painting (the polish of pretty prose) counts. Homeowners notice poorly done repair. Readers do too.