When Lightning Strikes…


Some people can predict lightning before it strikes – they get tingly sensations in their extremities, the hair on their arms (sometimes even their heads) stands straight up and a few seconds later, BAM!

I’m not one of those people except when it comes to getting verbally zapped by one of my writing teachers.  Right now, the hair on the back of my neck is standing straight up because she is gonna hurl a bolt at me like Zeus from the top of Mt. Olympus.  Any second…why, you may ask, would a nice lady writing teacher wanna do a thing like that to a sweet wee banshee like me?

I’ll explain:  To continue along the Greek mythology vein, I have not one but two Achilles heels.  The first is that I am a fast, reckless writer.  I’m just not as careful as I could be.  I get an idea, write it, and too often, submit it.  My second Achilles heel is that when I get busted for being a fast and reckless writer, I hurl a few lightning bolts of my own – usually at myself.  I ignore the good points and focus only on where the piece has fallen short.  Which gets me exactly nowhere.

In the calm after the storm, I ask myself:  could this energy be harnessed in a more productive way?  Perhaps I might consider writing a piece, walking away for a bit  and then re-visiting it.  Perhaps I could be more c-a-r-e-f-u-l instead of writing as if the Hounds of Hell are chasing me?  Problem solved!

Not so fast…

When an idea comes, I write it down with great enthusiasm.  Before I know it, I’ve got five or six pages – which is awesome!  Sort of.  Often, though, the five or six pages are conflicting, confusing, and wayward.  So, I keep going, thinking more is better and it will all work itself out.  Ten to fourteen pages into it, I still have no idea what the characters are doing – even though they might be very busy climbing mountains, talking, petting llamas, killing each other.  Why?  What drives them?  What has brought them to the point of climbing the Andes while moaning about global warming and half-heartedly trying to push each other over the odd cliff?

Therein lies the problem:  I write first, ask questions later.

There has to be an easier way.  Oh, dear.  I think it’s called an outline…or something along those lines.

So, to address the second Achilles heel, if I’m going to write as if I’m on a Formula 1 circuit, I should be prepared for the occasional fiery crash or almost worse, be prepared to run out of gas halfway round the track.  First of all, a piece written at  warp speed is likely to have issues.  Second of all, even a piece not written at warp speed is likely to have issues.  They always do.  Somebody, somewhere is going to have issues with something.   But I stand a better chance of avoiding crashes and lightning bolts if the submission is carefully thought out and as good as I can make it before I send it off.

Time to go deal with Zeus… carefully.




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