Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Just Bleed On The Page . . .


That title up there is a very writerly way to describe how to write. Variations on it have been attributed to assorted writers and you can track its citations Here

So, what does it mean, non-literally, to bleed on the page?

Pour out your heart?

Give your earnest best?

Write gruesome crime novels?

In the past post, Productivity vs Satisfaction ~ or ~ Success vs Peace of Mind, I referred readers to some of Annie Dillard‘s writerly wisdom—gonna do it again today.

You may have noticed I’ve used material from Maria Popova’s blog here a number of times.

Today, I’ll direct you to her post, Annie Dillard on Writing, where Maria says: “What does it really mean to write? Why do writers labor at it, and why are readers so mesmerized by it?”

Ms. Popova shares some quotes from Dillard’s, The Writing Life, and I’ll bring a few of them here to encourage you to go read the full article.

Let’s see if Annie talks about bleeding on the page:

“When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year. You make the path boldly and follow it fearfully. You go where the path leads. At the end of the path, you find a box canyon. You hammer out reports, dispatch bulletins. The writing has changed, in your hands, and in a twinkling, from an expression of your notions to an epistemological tool. The new place interests you because it is not clear. You attend. In your humility, you lay down the words carefully, watching all the angles. Now the earlier writing looks soft and careless. Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back.”

I especially like the “surgeon’s probe”

“When you are stuck in a book; when you are well into writing it, and know what comes next, and yet cannot go on; when every morning for a week or a month you enter its room and turn your back on it; then the trouble is either of two things. Either the structure has forked, so the narrative, or the logic, has developed a hairline fracture that will shortly split it up the middle — or you are approaching a fatal mistake. What you had planned will not do. If you pursue your present course, the book will explode or collapse, and you do not know about it yet, quite.”

Being stuck while writing may bring on a few drops of blood

“Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?”

This is beyond mere bleeding, more like pouring your soul on the page

One last quote, for those overly involved with genre fiction:

“Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love?”

If you’re a writer, what does bleeding on the page mean to you?

If you’re a reader, do you want your writer’s blood on your page………?

Care to share in the Comments?
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