Friday, May 23, 2008

Writing with my eyes open

How many other novelists, I wonder, avoid looking at their words as they type them onto the page? I'm actually a fairly fast and accurate typist, but somehow watching my words come out one a time distracts me and disrupts their flow.

So I don't watch.

Sometimes I write with my eyes shut, my head thrown back like Stevie Wonder at his piano, pushing words through my fingertips in the same joyous way he pushes music through his. But most of the time I'm looking over the screen of my laptop and out the window opposite my desk. It's just a normal-size window, but it affords me a partial view of our patio garden and beyond that, several mature black walnut trees and a bit of sky--in other words, plenty of light and color and movement to stimulate my imagination.

I would have taken my computer out into the garden this afternoon, but it's been looking like rain. A little while ago I went out with the idea of moving this pot of daisies and petunias in front of my office window (the one on the left side of this photo) so I could enjoy the jazzy orange-and-purple bouquet from my desk. But alas, the stand was too short. So I returned to my desk, where I spent a good five minutes watching two fat robins splash in the bird bath.

I've decided that the view from this window doesn't need improving, after all.


Mianna said...

That's so funny. I'm a novelist, but I enjoy watching my words pop up like magic. Maybe it's because I'm not really looking at the screen, but at the movie playing in my head...
I've also discovered that I can be reading my book out-loud, do a good job of it, and all the while be thinking of other stuff. See, you're not all that odd (maybe it just comes with the job)!
A.L. Travis
Author of The Pillar of Light: The Legends of Milana Series

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

Two things:

At my first writers' conference the leader (a poet, so that doesn't answer your protestation) suggested writing with a towel over the screen.

I'm a novelist (albiet pre-published) and I'm not sure where I look (I'll have to think about it next time I'm actually noveling.) I think I look at my hands.

As if I didn't know where to put my fingers (which children-on-my-lap prove I do).

I think I find the movement vaguely hypnotic and allow my mind to "space" that much more to visualize the scene I'm trying to write fast enough to capture.

I tried it just now, and *yes* the words popping up are *distracting*!

I think it's because what I see are the words that have already left my mind, and re-reading them slows me down by taking me back to what I've already processed.

Julana said...

Now I want to go shopping, for plants and a plant stand. :-)

Brenda Coulter said...

A.L., I've heard a lot of writers say it's a good idea to read your dialogue out loud. But that's no help because like you, I can read something out loud and not even hear it.

Amy Jane, you're absolutely right. "Novel" should be a verb.

Julana, my husband found our three Victorian-ish wrought-iron plant stands at an auction. He probably paid ten bucks or less for the one you see in that photo--and I like it way better than anything I've seen at Smith and Hawken.

Julana said...

My dad goes to auctions all the time. Maybe I'll ask him to keep his eyes open for some plant stands. Thanks for the idea.