Monday, June 27, 2011

Not all writing advice is good

Consider yesterday's post. Whoever said to keep a notebook by your bed to write down ideas you have in the middle of the night is clearly an idiot.

Or maybe it's my implementation of that advice that's not so hot.

Be that as it may, I followed the advice. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about how I didn't like people to throw balls at me, expecting me to throw them back.

I remember nothing about why I thought this would make a great blog post. I remember only the two sentences I ran to my laptop to write down before I forgot even that much: "I don't keep loose balls lying around. Someone will want throw them."

Later, I would write marvelous prose from this inspiration. At least, that was the plan.

What happened instead was a migraine. By the time I got over it I was way over deadline – and not feeling fantastic.

By the time I finished it sounded sad and pathetic. I posted it anyway. I made a joke on Twitter about how sad and pathetic it sounded. That would make it better, I thought. Problem was, some people would read it who hadn’t come from Twitter.

So I asked my wife to look at it. Should I just take it down. “Leave it up,” she said. “It sounds contemplative.”

“OK,” I wrote back. “But tomorrow I’ll be contemplative about what a bad idea it was.”

You might be thinking, “Your problem is that you didn’t stay up and write down the who idea.”

No. I’ve done that. The next day it was gibberish. So I should have learned my lesson.

It works for other people. I remember hearing years ago that Don Schlitz, who wrote “The Gambler” got the entire song in a dream. He got the first half one night and the second half the next night. Yes, inspiration came back and finished what it had left undone for that guy. He sold it to Kenny Rogers and they both made tons of money on it.

(I can't find this story on the Internet, so it might be entirely apocryphal.)

And Ed King, who wrote the guitar solos for “Sweet Home Alabama” says he got every note of them in a dream. He’s still living off the royalties. (His story is definitely true. He's told me so himself.)

So I guess the lesson is: Next time set it to music.

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