Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Stay in the Room

I've been reading Ron Carlson.  (BTW.  Why does his name sound so pleasant while mine cacophonous?)  Anyway, his short stories are terrific and I suggest them highly.  He also has "Ron Carlson Writes a Short Story," a pleasant little how-to book where he explains the process that finalized as "The Governor's Ball," itself a gem of understatement.

As he traces the story from the first sentence, he gives advice about writing.  The piece that I want to chat about is this:  Don't Leave the Room.   He's adamant about this.  Stay in the room.  No hot drinks.  No fridge.  No nothin'.  Stay in the room.   Butt in the chair.  He chronicles the difficulties.  The siren call of Mr. Coffee, for instance.  

We all know the difficulties.  Ulysses had his men tie him to the mast.  Ron stays in the room.  Good for him.  However, lots of us don't stay in the room and we do all right.  I speak for many when I say something is still writing when I'm sorting whites from coloreds.  (And if you use Mrs. Stewart's Bluing for sparkling whites, raise your hand now.)

Writing is getting done when I'm playing w/ Amos, the outdoor cat.  Watering the corner of the lawn that the sprinklers miss.  Seeing what the weather is in all the cities where my friends live.

Maybe this Ron's advice is this:  if you can't stay in the room, take the story along.   The story always calls, "Shotgun."  Likes to ride around and do errands.  Likes to take the air.

Dozens and dozens of people have told me how they write at stoplights.  Waiting for kids after school.  Writing w/ a flashlight as the soccer game rages a dozen yards away.  Writing at lunch while the others gossip.  Writing on the bus or train.  Writing for 15 minutes while everybody else is settling into sleep.

The biggest room is the world of the story.   Stay in the room.



  1. Did my most productive "writing" yesterday during my walk to the acupuncture clinic. And that was before I was stuck in my chair, so to speak, with needles. Take that, Other Ron. The best piece of writing advice: distrust all writing advice.

  2. Whatever gets the job done, that's what I say. Now that election anxiety is over, I can get back to that job at hand - wherever that may be.