“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?