Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rolling over and playing dead

No person is good at everything and it's natural to get frustrated when it feels like you're spinning your wheels while someone else is zooming ahead at Mach 7.

And boy, have I had my moments of wheel-spinning...

Last week when I posted a first-draft scene from Project #5, two commenters (sue & Yvie) were awesome and nailed me on a line that, (as Yvie brilliantly noted):

"I think I like the components of it, but something else about it is catching me."

The line in question was:

When he didn’t come, we set off alone under a sky bright with star trails.

Lines like this frustrate me because the components that make up the description are correct, the image in my mind of what I want to convey is incredibly sharp, yet the execution is flawed in a way where it's not an easy fix.

One of the major problems I have, both in reading and writing, is how my brain scrambles words up in strange ways. That scrambling is also the reason I nearly failed math and French in high-school.

It's a dyslexic thing, I totally get that.

And often this works incredibly well 'cause the way I describe something can be unusual and vivid. Description is actually one of the things I am pretty confident about, probably because I hold so much information in my head in a visual way. For example, math/numbers work like Lego in my mind, unique physical items that snap together to create something larger. They are tangible, not abstract. This is awesome when you're working with lower math... terrible when you start getting into calculus/algebra.

Writing is like very much like playing Tetris. Words have all kinds of shapes. When they are fit together properly, they create solid lines, when put together poorly, they leave ugly gaps. When I write, I pay close attention to how the words look on the page and, with a single glance (too quick to read content), I can usually tell if something is well written or not.

Being dyslexic has its advantages. I have way better spacial skills that most people. I can usually replicate something (like an action or a series of instructions) that I have only seen once. I can also take things apart mentally and put them back together in a different, more efficient way.

It's why I don't outline or make lists. I've trained my brain to remember things differently than *normal*. But ask me to tell you my phone number... and I'm going to have to pull out my phone and double check the sequence. And yes, this is embarrassing every time.

Sometimes I get so frustrated at my own shortcomings that I just want to roll over onto my back and play dead until someone pats me on the head and gives me a cookie.

...a sky bright with star trails. I know exactly what this looks like, but there's a glitch in my attempt to translate that image into a single, precise line of description.

Yes, I am confident in my ability to write description, but it's also the area which needs the most scrutiny and I rely heavily on my CP's because to my eyes, that line looks 100% correct.

Perhaps it's like being colour-blind. If your eye can't distinguish red from green, you're going to have to rely on someone else to tell you when your pants don't match your shirt.

So thank you, sue, Yvie, my long-suffering CP's (you know who you are) and everyone else who is nice enough to point out when my sentences look like red polka-dots mashed together with green plaid.

Now I need a cookie :)


  1. I can't even count how many things I've written that I thought were brilliant but didn't quite measure up when read by someone else. Thank god for my crit partners!

    1. Heh, well, it is a first-draft, but I totally get what you mean. Good CP's are priceless :)

  2. it's nice to have extra pairs of eyes to point those things out to us. With description, I think I'm okay at it, but was recently told I'm 'good' but I tend to over describe. And I suck at math.

    1. High-five on the hate-math thing?

      I tend to under describe in first-drafts... and over-describe on my second-pass. So a little of both :)

  3. Here is your cookie (don't know what kind you like though - no raisons I assume...)and scratching your head - good writer good writer
    For whatever reason you are fantastic with description whereas for me it's a constant struggle. I can recognize good description in books I read, but when it comes to me writing - pah - too lazy. Everyone needs others' eyes (and ears) So no need to roll over - just get back up on the horse --or chair --and back at it :D

    1. Thanks for the cookie ;) Yes, no raisins, please ;)

      Well, that line was only... a small example of how convoluted my descriptions can be. Sometimes they look like a random list of words, the sentence isn't complete, and it's the length of a paragraph :p

      How about back up on the couch? I do a lot of writing there with the dog cuddled against my leg and the cat trying to sleep directly on my wrists and keyboard. Well, okay, sometimes I manage to get a little writing done on the couch, depending if the cat is there or not ;)

  4. Have a cookie! Also, there's a GREAT book that a very good writer friend recommended to me a while ago, that seriously changed the way that I write - at that mechanical, lego-block-building level. It's Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace and I can't recommend it highly enough.

    Keep working at it and you'll be amazed what will happen. :)

    1. Thanks for the book suggestion!

      Yup, I'm not really down about it or anything, I know it's just a matter of not giving up and hammering out the problems when my brain is fully awake/alert.

  5. Even if something isn't right, knowing it isn't right is half the battle.

    1. You are so right ;) The problem is when I don't know something is wrong, hence my appreciation for those who point out the wonky lines :)


Type me out a line of Shakespeare or a line of nonsense. Dumb-blonde-jokes & Irish jokes will make me laugh myself silly :)