Saturday, February 29, 2020

Searching for the Creative Voice Within

I'm looking for my creative voice.  It's around here somewhere. Some days it's so loud I can't stifle it with a stuffed pillow.  And I never know what it's going to say. 

I do need that voice. A writer does not live by white-out alone.  A search warrant is in order. "Single white female in search of inventive perspective. Touch of humor and dash of whimsy essential." Too dry.

"Brazen wench seeks bizarre attitude. Prefer voice that laughs so hard it bleats." Better. 

Perhaps the voice is simply distracted today, not sure when to show up or what to do when it gets here.  I can always tell when it's having an identity crisis.  Every speck of dust in the house stands out.  They insist on obliteration; a vacuum or dust cloth will do. The dust distractors appear most often when I'm on deadline.

Wait. The voice was thinking of meditating. Damn. I hate it when it hangs out with that crowd. Comes back all mellow. No bite at all. Might as well stay in that darkened room with the silly paintings on the wall. A woman with tendrils coming out of her head. A man playing a lute as he rides a unicorn. Should be a warning sign.  "Artist on meditation, hide the paint."

But, I don't think the voice is meditating today.  I'm too calm.  It usually only mediates after we've had a disagreement.  Like the time we debated whether "The Little Engine that Could" really exists, or if it was just the author's way of trying to brainwash a couple generations of kids. I won, of course. I often do.  Then the voice pouts. Could be for just a few minutes. Sometimes for as long as a couple of days.

It comes back.  I'm convinced it misses me as much as I miss its quirky incantations. Where did I find it last time?  Ah yes. At the keyboard. Actually, I think it was hiding in the computer screen. I had finished DEP--dust elimination procedures--and tackled all the weeds in the flower garden. Thought the voice might be in with the June bugs. Couldn't think of anyplace else to look, so I just turned on that sucker, and there it was. 

"Where were you?" it asks.  "I've been waiting." 

I know its wiles.  Trying to make me forget I'm angry that it's been in hiding. 

Perhaps it's in the computer again today. I approach the contraption, sneaking up on its blind side, so the voice doesn't sense I'm coming. Once you turn on the computer, the voice can't escape.  Can still hide, of course. 

Aha! There it is.

There's always an excuse for being away.  "I've been collecting my thoughts," it says. 

"Collecting or concealing?" I ask. And we're on our way.

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Author's note: Sometimes writing a blog post is a good way to escape the creative voice. To see more about my writing, go to

Typo Avoidence Strategies

Typos are the bane of every writer’s existence, and they annoy readers. When people tell me they can't afford to hire an editor, or even a proofreader, I suggest they look for items to sell on Craigs List or have a garage sale. I'm not being a smart aleck.  Your unwanted stuff can polish your product.

Before you work with a proofreader, you'll show copies to a critique group or send several chapters to a potential agent. To reduce errors in a draft, take a look at these Typo Avoidance Tips.

  1. Time and distance are your friends. The longer you let a draft sit in a drawer or in electronic limbo, the easier it is to spot errors later.
  2. Stop rewriting. Yes, you want your book to be the best you can make it. But at some point the book is done. Every time you rewrite a paragraph you can make new mistakes.
  3. Read slowly. You expect to see words in a certain order or names and places spelled a certain way, so that's what your brain sees and it keeps moving. If you slow down, you'll see the errors.
  4. Read your book out loud. It does take a lot of time, but you are asking a reader to pay for your book. They deserve this much more of your time.
  5. If your education did not include a formal grammar course, buy a book or take a community college or online course. Writing is likely your second career. Imagination may not be teachable, but a good command of the language can be learned.
  6. Keep track of regular errors to better recognize them in the future. Mine include leaving off the closing quotation marks or leaving out the apostrophe in the word its when it's supposed to be a contraction. But I'm not picky, I vary the mistakes.
  7. Use the search feature in your software to locate those regular errors. You won't find left-out words or missing punctuation marks, but you may see many oops items.
  8. Do a paperback rough draft. If you are self-publishing, you will do a paperback via Amazon, BN, or another source. When you review a printed proof, many errors will jump out. It's worth doing an early paperback version, even if you later redo it.
  9. Each device you have registered with Amazon has a Kindle address. (Look it up under "Manage Devices and Content.") Send your book to Kindle email address and it appears on your Kindle as a document (as opposed to a retail book). Just as with a paperback, your words will look different than they do on your computer, so you may spot errors more readily.
One caution. You don't want to pay attention to typos as you write those early drafts. Keep your focus on the story.
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