Reading Over My Shoulder

“One like this would not leave his riggings out to rust, nor talk of buying tractors, incubators, separators.  One like this would house himself and all he owned snug and watertight; let horses draw his ploughs, hens hatch his eggs, and time divide his cream from his milk; watch the seasons as they passed and know from each one what to expect of the next.  A boy like this would listen, not too smart nor too impatient nor too proud to learn what his land could teach him as the earth turned slowly round the sun.”

As The Earth Turns

I was sitting in my chair reading As The Earth Turns by Gladys Hasty Carroll when the above three sentences caught my attention. I paused and then read them aloud with ease and enjoyment.  Despite how much or how little work was required of the author to write these sentences, there are no visible signs of laborious effort. Her words flow as if written in a “moment’s thought.” There is also some beautiful alliteration (i.e. riggings and rust, hens and hatch, learn and land). With charming confidence, these sentences deepen the reader’s understanding of the father character, Mark Shaw, whose thought-life we enter here. 
Two days ago I began writing morning pages, which I learned about in The Artist’s Way. It made me reconsider the post I wrote called Meditative Bliss for the Writer, in which I concluded that I wouldn’t plan to write, but would do so when the desire arose.  I now understand that desires don’t always arise and sometimes confidence and security get in the way of the decision to write.  While I may not plan to write a poem or story in advance and will welcome breaks, I now believe that it’s a good practice to write freely in a journal for a set amount of time a day and not judge whatever is released onto the page.  In The Artist’s Way, the artist is encouraged not to re-read the morning pages until about eight weeks have passed.
What a relief it is to simply write in a journal and not worry about whether the words are good enough!  To write and then tuck the book away and not look back.

I wonder about Carroll, how she was able to write with such confidence and clarity.  After some thought, I decided that she could have been critical of her own words, too, but she didn’t let her inner critic stop her from publishing this beautiful, insightful book and these beautiful sentences.  I realized that one quality that makes writing delightful is honesty—often that honesty comes through playfulness and spontaneity.  It is possible that Carroll doubted the length of the second sentence, yet its length is part of what made it wonderful to me.

I’ve learned from reading and personal experience, that in terms of the writing process, the most incredible moments often come when we’ve loosened up a bit and aren’t fearful about writing something that others might say is wrong or not good enough.  It also works best for me to write as much as possible before revising many sentences.  And then after revision, I let them go.

Reflection: What makes your words flow? Does free-writing without stopping to revise help you? How about music, a meal, or changing your location?


  1. Its so true.I find that when I have an outline, even tho thats how the book must go for A and Z to mesh, its harder to write said chapter then it is when I have no plan and I just write whatever comes.Both are necissary, but some are easier and more enjoyable than others. Typos galor, but I have kids hanging on me, Im not going to spell check. LOL


  2. Carroll's writing is beautiful…I may have to look into this.Jade, I must say also that your writing is that of a poet, a lyricist, one who has incredible insight and yet…am I mistaken, or are you young of years? You've been given a great gift, I pray you delve into it daily, you'll find a level of contentment…release…had you not. I believe God gives us the talents that we have so that we may truly express ourselves as the individuals that we are through them. Also to glorify Him through them. Again, you've been given a great gift…keep unwrapping it!I also wanted to thank you for encouraging me through your sweet comments at my blog. Thanks!Julie


  3. I have a journal full of free writing, odd sentences, a turn of phrase and quick sketches. When I write about scripture or for liturgy I tend to follow a sort of Lectio Divina – I read a passage from the Bible or other – carry it round in my head and heart for a whie then sit down and and let it go. I rarely revise more than once. I don't even know if it's any good but once it's written it's not mine anymore anyway and that's for others to judge. There are places where the space between is thinner than others and they are gifts when I find them or return to them.Good to hear how your words travel. blessings m+


  4. Sometimes it does work best for me to write with reckless abandon, only looking back to correct after I've reached a stopping point. But sometimes I write much better if I sit and take 5 minutes for each sentence, just letting my thoughts wander and words form before I try to pin them down. It just depends.Music helps when I'm working on my stories. I don't always like it when I'm writing poetry, though.


  5. I think it's important to plan to write, whether or not we have the desire or inspiration. Because what often happens is that getting into the process, and letting the writing happen no matter what often summons the inspiration and before you know it, you're in a groove.I listen to music only during light editing, pretty much. And while blogging 🙂


  6. I'm so excited you've connected so happily with the free writing! I don't revise anything I write, unless I notice a big glaring spelling or grammar mistake that I just can't live with. But I like writing that feels like thought. That's a lot of why Kerouac's writing appeals to me so much. So in and out and you just can't analyze it too deeply.


  7. It's funny. Sometimes I'll write something that I think is really good and no one likes it. Other times the opposite is true. I think that the discipline is important. But, we must quiet the inner critic who is always looming. I'm glad that you're writing again.Andie


  8. Hi Jade – I hopped over from Julie's blog.Your writing is lovely 🙂 My writing is not so \”lovely\” although I do have my moments. I had been taking a break from blogging – nothing seemed to \”flow\”. And then I just decided I should start againg – and the words come. All I need to do is start typing 🙂


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: