Thursday, June 18, 2009

More Ultimate Wisdom

Are you ready for this? Tell me what you think. The writing book that I’m very slowly making my way through just gave me another gem.

The writer’s running coach wanted to be a writer himself. Her advice: “Terry, you know everything about writing because you know running. If you go deeply in one thing, you know everything else. Just apply what you know about running to writing.”

Now, I wonder why she didn’t put this advice on page 1. I wouldn’t have had to read further. I’ve gone quite deep in eating, so I must know everything there is to know about writing as well. Whew, that’s a relief. No more study for me!

I’ve actually been able to translate some of the things that this author has said into common, everyday language. But this one I can’t even make the wildest guess at.

And while you're contemplating your navel and today's wisdom, here's the opening of the western story I just finished yesterday. It's called "Showdown at Wild Briar."

“You Josh Allen Boone?”

Leaning back in his chair in the Bucket Of Blood saloon, a man looked up from under the brim of a battered Stetson. His gray eyes studied the speaker, noted the briar-scarred chaps, the faded red bandana at the neck, worn smooth and soft with many washings, and the sun-worn face under a sweat-stained hat. The gun was worn high on the right hip. Except for the boots, which were hand-tooled and expensive, the outfit shouted cow puncher, but didn’t provide a name.

"Who's asking?"


Scott said...


That book sounds like 10 pounds of shit crammed into a 1 pound bag,to put not too fine a point on it.

Like the opening of the story, makes me want to read the rest!

pattinase (abbott) said...

I've been thinking about it for a few minutes here and maybe she means if you make yourself an expert on one thing, you know how to do it. Maybe?

fairyhedgehog said...

That's such good advice. Do you think you need to eat a whole lot more to increase your expertise with writing? You could start a fad.

Charles Gramlich said...

Scott, and she did some cramming for sure.

Pattinase, I hear that practice makes perfect, but not that practice at swimming makes for perfect diving.

Fairyhedgehog, I'm going to start working on that today and see what happens! Thanks for visiting.

Angie said...

I've heard it said that if you learn to be an expert at one skill, you have the tools to become an expert at any other skill. That is, you've learned what it takes to become expert at something -- study, practice, determination, etc. -- and you can apply those meta-skills to learning something else. That actually makes some sense.

It sounds to me like this woman read the above somewhere and completely misunderstood it.


Leigh Russell said...

That's a great way to study. Hand over the chocolates, it's time to hone my writing skills.

How's about showing us the rest of your story, Charles, now you've tantalised us with the opening?

L.A. Mitchell said...

That is such a relief. I know me some Hugh Jackman. NYTimes list, here I come :)

Paul R. McNamee said...

Her advice: “Terry, you know everything about writing because you know running. If you go deeply in one thing, you know everything else. Just apply what you know about running to writing.”

My advice to her: write more clearly.

I'm pretty sure the gist was supposed to be; (as Angie noted)

If you go deeply in one thing, you know HOW TO GO DEEPLY INTO ANYTHING everything(strikeout) else. Just apply what you know about MASTERING running to MASTERING writing.

laughingwolf said...

what scott sez re the 'coach'...

nice intro, but his flaunting hand-tooled boots instead of a hand-tooled holster tells me he's not one to be concerned with ;)

G. B. Miller said...

You're giving me nightmares with this book that you're reading.

State government deja vu.

As for the story: nifty opening and makes me curious about the rest of it.

Sounds like your main character is the type of guy who steamrolls over anything that happens to get in his way.

Aine said...

Ha! I'm pretty sure we all know how to breathe, too. We're all experts at everything, then. (Provided we apply ourselves...)

Steve Malley said...

Miyamato Musashi said, "From one thing, know ten thousand things." The idea was that once you've mastered one skill set, you not only know how to master others but also enjoy certain cross-category benefits that give you a leg up in the struggle.

Which is a fancy of way of saying that once you've sat your ass down and sweated your way through to that 10,000 hour mark, you know what you've gotta do. And depending on how close to the mastered skill your new one is, you might, *might* get a thousand hours or two of bonus time.

somebody's doing a bad job of explaining points that have little to do with writing...

Spy Scribbler said...

LOL! It's true, it was written badly. But I agree with the thought behind it, I think. It's a bit of the way I've always taught. I've always felt that learning how to learn is more important than what you learn; that learning excellence is transferable to whatever subject you choose to apply it to.

Heff said...

Sorry, still contemplating my navel....

writtenwyrdd said...

Is there a name for these nuggets of faux wisdom which, if you shat in one hand and held said nugget in the other, would be of the same value?

I really really want to know, cuz then I can change the name of my blog!

writtenwyrdd said...

Nice opening, too!

David Cranmer said...

Josh Allen Boone is going to kick ass. I just know it.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I didn't know your name was Terry!


Scott D. Parker said...

I just listened to a podcast with James Reasoner and one with Joe Lansdale. Bottom line: read a lot and write a lot. I'm coming to the conclusion that there is a nice cottage industry about how to write that, while there may be nuggets of goodness, it still boils down to reading a lot and writing a lot.

Barbara Martin said...

I ditto on Scott Parker's comment.

Your own work, Charles, is excellent.

Charles Gramlich said...

Angie, yeah, meta-skills make some sense. Perhaps that is what she is talking about. Although there’s nothing else in that section that seems to tie in.

Leigh Russell, Hopefully I will sell it somewhere. Eh! :)

L.A. Mitchell, if you’re an expert on one thing, you know everything.

Paul R. McNamee, probably so, although even so it still makes only minimal sense. But it’s better than it seemed.

laughingwolf, or perhaps he’s wearing a disguise and forgot to change his boots?

G, Josh is about to find himself outmatched at first in the story. But he catches on eventually.

Aine, there’s really no need to write then. We are all perfect as is. Cool!

Steve Malley, she’s obviously way deep into the zen thing. But it looks to me like a very shallow analysis. I ultimately have a problem with any kind of philosophy, or religion, that has to hide itself behind vagueness in order to seem deep. I haven’t studied Zen much and I understand there is a great deal of depth in it, but it’s far more than tossing off some vaguely deep sounding statements.

spyscribbler, I teach learning how to learn to my students, but there’s something else here. Learning how to engage in a physical behavior like running or swimming is so far different from learning how to master an academic type subject that they aren’t really comparable. They don’t even use the same areas of the brain.

Heff, is it a fuzzy navel?

writtenwyrdd, I will give the name eventually, although I’m liable to get into trouble. I’ve read some folks with a serious love affair for this individual’s earlier work.

David Cranmer, I like the name Boone. It definitely seems kick ass to me. I couldn’t let the name down.

Wil, my name will be mud with the folks who love this woman’s work.

Scott Parker, that’s probably the simplest and best advice ever for writing. Read a lot, write a lot. Nuff said.

Charles Gramlich said...

Barbara, thanks.

Travis Cody said...

Well, I know a $h*t ton about sports, but that sure hasn't helped me much with characterization and plot development and creating memorable descriptions.

jodi said...

Charles-I agree with Paul. Some lessons in mastering a skill can carry over. However, what sounds good in theory doesn't always work in practice. I can make a mean s'more, buuuuut.t.t, gormet anything else? Not so much. I may have met a western I like!

laughingwolf said...

perhaps, charles ;) lol

i'll stick with ol gray eyes hisself as the hombre to watch :D

SQT said...

Oh, I love westerns. Haven't read one in awhile. I look forward to seeing some more.

Travis Erwin said...

I'm ready for more.

Cloudia said...

I like your paragraph, well done i think.

Applying eating wisdom to writing:
"Write desert first."

JR's Thumbprints said...

Nothing beats the title of this HOW-TO book: "If You Can Talk, You Can Write."

If were only that easy. Still, Joel Saltzman gives some valid pointers.

Charles Gramlich said...

Travis, but you also know dancing. That's like running. I think you've got it made.

jodi, yeah, we talk about positive and negative transfer in psych. Learning some skills help you master others. But learning some skills will interfere with learning still others. I'd like a S'More please.

laughingwolf, well he'll definitely be in at the kill.

SQT, I go on streaks. I'm on a western streak now.

Travis Erwin, I'm polishing it tonight.

Cloudia, I think you make a good point. I'm going to write some dessert right now.

JR, lol. I spend quite a lot of time telling my students how talking is "not" like writing. but yeah, most how-to books have bits and pieces you can use.

Greg said...

wow, that writing book keeps getting better and better. great description in that western story.

the walking man said...

I am a Certified (by two different organizations) as a Master Auto and Truck Mechanic (excuse me; technician)I can take all the nuts bolts and widgets from any vehicle and competently reassemble them bringing the said machine back to top working order.

Man I am glad to know that, that Pulitzer for poetry is in my future.

Sarai said...

Wow so why am I not published yet then? I mean I'm an expert on numerous things like tying my shoe, eating, breathing and blinking.

I've heard that phrased in another way. If you are an expert at running than you should write about running b/c you know it. But the way she said it doesn't work for me.

BernardL said...

I think you need to find one more secret out from the author, Charles. How did that book get published? :)

Great excerpt from the western.

Charles Gramlich said...

Greg Schwartz, I just had a drink of water and thought about eating and that western story just rolled out. Amazing.

Mark, just go deep...uhh. Yeah, deep. And roll up your pant's legs too.

Sarai, I'm guessing this author would tell you, "but you are published. As soon as you've thought it, it's gone out in the world and changed someone. Yes, write what you know. Although I disagree with that. I say write what you "want" to know.

BernardL, because her first one was a huge seller. I haven't read it and don't have much interest in trying it now. Thanks for the comment on the western. I started the final rewrite last night.

Middle Ditch said...

Something to ponder about.

Like my husband said to a poet friend, "Show, do not tell"

It took me ages to work that one out but it's true in every respect. LOL!

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

I know this book -- totally useless. The comment about eating made me laugh! The truth is that this woman has never written anything I have ever wanted to read and the only books of hers that really sell are writing books. I know lots of runners that can't write and most writers I couldn't run if the Devil himself were chasing them.

Merisi said...

If Paul is right,
that lady needs to reed a good book about how to write.

I think that was not funny,
but since you asked. ;-)

How did you write such a fine opening? Cowboy lore with dessert? :-)

Aimlesswriter said...

Great opening. I feel danger in the air.

As for that writing book? Sounds like she's trying too hard to give it a zen feel and not getting very far.

j said...

The opening was good! I'm interested.

I know a lot about Hannah Montanna now that it is summer vacation (help. my kids have taken the tv hostage) but I won't be writing a book about her. Ugh.

I hope that you have a Happy Father's Day Charles.

Charles Gramlich said...

Middle Ditch, I'm sure this author would have a much more complicated way of saying that.

Michelle, that was one thing that bothered me a bit. When the biggest thing you've ever sold is a book 'about' writing it seems maybe there's something wrong.

Merisi, in revising that opening I found it not as good as I'd thought. I used the word 'worn' three times. I should have had more drinks of water and sunk a bit deeper in myself.

Aimless Writer, I think the zen feel is exactly what she wants, and if youi take it without examining it, it almost makes sense. Thanks for dropping by.

jennifer, glad you liked I'm seeing my son tomorrow since he has to work Sunday. Sunday will definitely be a day of rest down my way.

Sidney said...

Very nice description in that opening.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sidney, thanks.

ivan said...

I'm a little behind on my crib notes on Tenessee Williams' Glass Menagerie, but I remember a line by the character of Laura, who is frustrated over not finding a mate, iives in a fantasy world, and by now has convinced herself in her feeling of inferiority, that most people are better, more substantial, more multi-talented than she.
Says Tom, to encourage--if you can only do one thing really well, the rest will come together. But, says Laura, there are people..who do a whole number of things well. And they're all around me.
To get to your Terry, the offerer of writing wisdom, Laura's insight is sadly correct.
Writers are extremely versatile people. They can do most anything they put their minds to, which is perhaps what your segacious Terry really meant.
The "doing one thing really well" might work as therapy for emotionally or oven physicallly crippled folks, but it's a damned competitive world out there and each stupidity or ineptness will be hunted out into the light...only the fittest (fittingest?) survive....Probably holds true for writing if I know anything about competition,.
What your how-to author really meant, I think, was that writers are versatile people, and writing is only one of the things they do....Of course there is a school that thinks writers know--or should know everything.
Well, that was my training at the Star in l966. "Author ominiscient". You know everything--everything about the story you are writing and you set down only ten per cent of what you know.
What your how-to author meant, I think is that writers--because they are writers?--are extremely versatile people.

Anonymous said...

Hey Heff, when you're done contemplating your navel can you have a look at mine?


Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, I've found that most writers know a little bit about a lot of different things but I don't always find them to be experts at any one particular thing. I think the writing biz is a jack of all trades kind of gig.

Wil, I'm sure he'd rather contemplate Donna's navel.

writtenwyrdd said...

You know Charles, after pondering the expert analogy here, I can't help but think the real thing to do is "write as if you know."

But perhaps that is why I like to write speculative fiction. I can just change the rules of the world, right?

Barrie said...

Someone was just telling me that she really got a lot out of The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. I'm thinking of giving that a try.

Charles Gramlich said...

writtenwyrdd, changing the rules, as we can do with spec fiction, is the equivalent of becoming an expert because we establish the laws. I agree.

Barrie, I've heard good things about Maass's other writing book but I haven't read it yet.