Thursday, November 3, 2016

Alumni Voices with Ellen Kazimer: Writing and Revising While Building a House

An unexpected job relocation landed us in Georgia and, rather than rent or buy; we decided to build a house. A fortunate set of circumstances indeed, but it has eaten up my precious writing time. I usually write in the morning, when I am fresh with ideas. Lately, however, my early morning ideas have more to do with my house-in-progress than my work-in-progress. The two endeavors are rather similar in some ways.
Both building and writing need a basic structure upon which to create. A novel requires a basic plot structure, setting, characters, and a theme. A house needs a foundation, load-bearing walls, plumbing, and insulation before it turns into a home.
Along the path to writing a story and building a home, there are so many choices to be made. It is almost paralyzing. Many days, I have felt unable to make a decision on my house-in-progress or my work-in-progress. In her book, Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, Lisa Chron writes, “Myriad studies have shown that the more choices we have, the less likely we are to choose anything. Not only that but limitless choice tends to trigger anxiety.”
I am constantly revising my house-in-progress and my work-in-progress. Like cutting out a darling sentence that no longer works, I’ve had to let go of items I loved that no longer go with the house-in-progress. I’ve also had to strike out my vague, overused nouns from my vocabulary like “whatcha ma call it” and “thing a ma jig” for precise builder nouns like “newel” and “corbel.” Then I wake up at two in the morning with the dreaded realization that a small change I made means a complete overhaul throughout the house. It may even cause a delay in the house being completed. But it must be done. This too, has happened in my “work-in-progress.”
Despite my doubts and anxiety, I move forward one step at a time focusing on what is important to me, to my house, and to my manuscript. What I value is a comfy home and a compelling story that invites you to pull up a cozy chair, sit a spell, and read.

Ellen Kazimer is a 2014 graduate of Hamline MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She writes picture books, nonfiction, and middle grades novels. Her full bio can be found on her website

1 comment:

  1. Ellen, what a thoughtful post. Before you came to Hamline, we were building a house and I almost lost my mind . . . but I used it like you did as a metaphor for a talk I gave on plotting. So much trust involved in building and in writing that it is a terrific metaphor. I know you did a wonderful job and hope to see it someday. 9 years later I can report that the angst goes away ... and the joy of creating something stays. cheers to you.