You can thank Dear Hubby for this week’s post. He’s in the middle of another round of physical therapy and he got me wound up on the subject other day.
What’s up with all the PT, you might ask? My gentle giant is fine, I swear. But the wear and tear of fifteen years of football is finally taking its toll. Then there’s Baby Girl…our whirling dervish of a toddler is enough to knock anyone out of alignment! I’m going in as soon as he’s done. 🙂
He’s been with the physical therapists twice so far this year and they work wonders. Rather than the knee replacements and long rehabs we feared, these magical PT’s worked on strengthening key muscle groups until he was back in balance and good as new, in eight weeks or less.
How do they achieve this magic?? You know I asked the dude about this! So he brought me home a brochure. WOOT!
Physical Therapy is defined as “a health care profession which targets the physical treatment and management of disease or condition with therapeutic exercise to enable people to reach their maximum potential.”
Hmmm, Maximum Potential…my writing self started feeling kinda frisky over that so I wrote down some questions for the hubby to ask.
1. What was their goal for him?
To strengthen his weaker muscles and get them into balance with his stronger muscles, in this case to keep his kneecap from being pulled to the side.
2. How do they achieve this balance?
Here is where things get REALLY interesting for us writers! There are 3 components that assist you in keeping your balance:
- Your vision
- Your inner ear
- Your musculoskeletal control
The example they gave him:
When you hold your arm out in front of you, you see your arm. As you look at your arm, you remain upright through the balance of your inner ear (which is the only aspect of this that is really out of our control). You sense your arm through nerve impulses transmitted from the core strength of your muscles which attach to your bones.
All this lets you keep that arm held out straight and still, for much longer than you might think you could. Try it…the act of staring at your hand, out there at the end of your arm makes a huge difference in the amount of effort you need to expend for this exercise.
The reality is that if any of these three components are out of whack, you will not be able to keep that arm (or even your body) upright. Focusing all three components on the task is what makes it work.
So how do we relate these 3 components to writing?
Let’s change the order around a bit and dig a little deeper.
Part 1 – Your Inner Ear
Your inner ear is your voice. Voice is the cadence that is essentially you; it’s what makes your work stand out as unique.
The best description I’ve ever heard of “voice” is:
Imagine you are sitting in a café, telling your friend a story. The way you tell a story is quintessentially you. You don’t stop to think about how the story sounds when you’re talking to your friend, you just tell it. The visual and verbal cues you get back are what help you time the rhythm of your story and play certain parts of it up or down.
The best part, and the hardest part, about writing is that we do it alone. There is no one across the café table, or computer screen, to tell you what’s “just right” and what is falling flat.
We learn to recognize what works on our own (through Craft) or we find a great critique group.
Kristen Lamb did a great post about Voice called, Developing Your Unique Writing Voice.
Part 2 – Musculoskeletal Control.
Definition: This control is essential in our balance and vital to our ability to walk normally. The mechanics of human ambulation, or walking on two legs, is quite unique in nature. It has been described as consisting of a cycle of `controlled falls’, which highlights the complexity of distinguishing between a fall or stumble and normal, controlled walking.
For the writer, “musculoskeletal control” is Craft.
The more you exercise your writing muscles, the more balanced and resilient they become. It took me ages to recognize (and accept) that it doesn’t matter whether you can lift a five pound weight or a fifty pound weight, what matters is that you can do it a lot and do it smoothly.
In writer-speak that means: a good writer with the courage to approach the page every day is going to be published long before a great writer that approaches the page sporadically.
Just like targeted physical therapy can turn a weak knee into a strong one, daily writing can turn a good writer into a wonderful, well-disciplined one. This is why blogging is so helpful.
A great list of Craft books is essential too. Click here if you want to share mine. Here’s some great posts if you want to gorge on a little more Craft:
- “A Deeper, Richer Understanding of Craft” Part 2 by Larry Brooks (THEN read Part 1)
- Anna DeStefano and Jenni Holbrook-Talty’s How We Write Wednesday Series
- Any Craft post by Sharla Rae – she’s amazing at separating huge concepts into bite-sized pieces.
- New & Improved Writer’s Toolbox by Laura Drake
Part 3 – Your Vision
Your visual strength is what you rely on after you’ve gotten the words on the page. Your vision translates into editing.
I know wonderful writers who have lyrical prose and the ability to create fantastic worlds with engaging characters. Yet they are still fighting to be published. Why?
Is it those mean editors? Those crazy publishers? I regret to say, it rarely is. Most of these writer friends tell me it’s actually because their editing or proofing is not strong enough yet. Practice makes perfect and we’ll all get there if we keep at it and build a powerful writing team to provide help when we need it.
There is a famous quote by Elmore Leonard that frustrates the hell out of most new writers: “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”
The structure of a story is a lot harder than it looks because we have to learn what parts people will skip and why. Kristen Lamb’s latest series on Structure is a priceless gift to all us writers – she’s up to Part 8 right now and they are all fantastic.
Some other helpful editing posts I’ve found are:
- The Three Simple Stages of Self-Editing by Jody Hedlund
- How I Edit by Nathan Bransford
- 5 Ways To Make Your Novel Unforgettable by Victoria Mixon
- 7 Ways for Editing Your Way to the Best Story on the Planet by K.M. Weilandt
- Also, have you read my guest post with Nicole Basaraba on the topic of editing vs. proofreading?
Wherever you are on your writing journey, DON’T STOP. The best is always yet to come because our writing keeps improving the more we do it. What you hear with your inner ear and see with your writer’s vision will eventually be translated by the “musculoskeletal” strength of your Craft.
My hope is that, even on those days when you feel that all is lost and when you wonder why you EVER believed your words were important, you keep at it.
Remember the thrill that really kickass sentence zings up your spine.
Remember why you started writing that damn book in the first place.
Embrace the act of sharing your story…it’s more than most people ever attempt.
Remember that no one else will have the inner ear to hear the words exactly as you do, the strength to birth them onto the page, or the vision to translate those words into the perfect story that floats from your heart to ours.
What part of writing do you struggle with the most? Voice, craft or editing? I have the hardest time with structure and editing myself, and head-hopping, and conflict and…Oh, sorry. Enough about me… What’s your writing albatross? Enquiring minds always want to know here at More Cowbell!