Friday, February 17, 2012

Quotes and Cookies: Unable to say

For those of you who asked to know how it went last night when I talked to Brandon Sanderson's class, it was awesome, surreal, and SO MUCH FUN. I want to go do it again today! But alas, it's one of those once-in-a-lifetime kinds of deals.

My writing group went with me, since that's where most of us first met. (We've been meeting together ever since Brandon put us together three years ago.) After I spoke, we found a table and benches in the lobby, and had our weekly critique group meeting. One of our members has since moved to another state, so he Skyped in. The volume on the computer has to be loud, so even those of us on the other side of the computer can hear, and we have to talk loud so he can hear.

I didn't think anything of our volume, though, because we were FOCUSED. Just like a good little writing group should be. Anyway, toward the end, someone came up to us and said, "Excuse me? Um.... What are you guys doing?"

"Oh. writer's group. We're critiquing each other's stuff."

He looked SO RELIEVED. "Oh! That makes so much sense! I was wondering why you guys were talking about whether you have enough motivation to assassinate people!"

It has already been etched in my brain under FAVORITE WRITING GROUP MEMORIES EVER. Good times. Good times.

And onto the quote!

"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say,
but what we are unable to say."

~Anaïs Nin

Sometimes I'll write a scene that has a ton of emotion in it. I cry writing it. I think it might possibly have evoked more emotion than anything else I've ever written.

Then I walk away. Sometime later, after it's been long enough to forget everything I went through right along with the character, I read it again, and I don't get taken back to that same place! That place where I went with my character that made me swell with emotion. And I realize that I didn't capture those feelings. The things that most people are unable to say. The things that, as writers, we need to know how to say. Even if it's REALLY HARD.

And that's the trick, isn't it? To truly express the things even our characters were unable to say. No matter how many passes it takes for us to get it right.

Because it's still February and because I love Valentines cookies especially, more heart cookies! Go ahead and take one. They turn your tongue fun colors.

Photo credit:

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone!


Iain said...

I think that we have to replay the scene over and over in our heads while we are writing it, and that what makes it’s so intense. We feel every second of it. That's probably why it can feel a little bit flat when we re-visit it later. I remember physically shaking after a hostage scene that I’d written.

It seems like this is a week for laughing for you. What a great story :o)

Kristine said...

I really like that quote. And, I like that about good books I read.

Weaver said...

Oh, Peggy, can you imagine what was going on in that guy's mind? "Should I report these people? What if someone dies, and I didn't tell anyone, then it's my fault! But what if it's really something innocent, and campus security comes over, and I look like an idiot? Or worse, end up on the evening news?"


That quote is awesome.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

Congratulations on all the fun you had with Mr. Sanderson's class. NPR on Science Friday had a piece on how sugar is toxic. I think you should post pictures of cookies that don't have sugar in them.

LisaAnn said...

What a hilarious writing group story! We had a similar (though not nearly as funny) experience last night when three of us were in a heated discussion about a book one of our members had just finished. He was right in the middle of saying, "And then he died. And it was awesome!" when we were joined by outsiders... Good times all around!

Jenny S. Morris said...

Those cookies look so great. And I love that you guys had that much fun in class.

Have a great weekend.

prerna pickett said...

sometimes when I google stuff I worry the government might put to a trace on me because of how out there it is... and great quote!

Annalisa Crawford said...

That's why I love to write some scenes to specific music. As soon as I hear the song again, I'm taken right back to those emotions. It really does work wonders.

Your critique group story is hilarious, but I'm already rewritting it in my head as though you were actually gearing up to assassinate someone!

Lan said...

This quote feels like it's directed straight at me! Capturing the perfect emotional moment in writing is such a difficult thing to do and something I struggle with every time I sit down to write. I love that you get to have weekly critique meetings. I only get to go once a month and it's not enough I tell you!

Krista McLaughlin said...

That's very funny and I'm glad that your teaching went well! :)

Z said...

Peggy! Thanks for coming to our class--it was an inspiration for us all to hear you :) A funny moment you forgot to mention was how you fought over gummy bears because Erin wanted them all to herself :)

Writing groups really are the best! Only then can you talk about assassinating somebody and not feel like a criminal :)

i'm erin. said...

I think we should've told him we were plotting the death of a teacher that failed us. Then we should've waited for his reaction and laughed...and laughed...and laughed.

David P. King said...

I'm super glad to have been part of that awesome experience. Definitely a CP moment I will never forget. :)

Delia said...

Oh too funny! And now I want to read that scene that made you cry. :)

So glad you had a great presentation.

Carrie Butler said...

Planning to assassinate people AGAIN? Tsk, tsk, tsk... ;)

I'm glad to hear things went well!

Sorry I wasn't here to wish you a Happy Birthday this week. (My dad had a heart scare and we spent a couple days with him in the hospital.) I hope it was great!

Shallee said...

Wish I could have gone to Brandon's class to hear you! Sounds like you did awesome.

And one of these days, I hope to hit on the secret of saying what's so hard to express.

Kelley Lynn said...

That story is hilarious!

Great quote too :)

Have a fantastic weekend!

Hannah Hounshell said...

Too funny, lol. I've kinda had moments like that one. I'll be discussing a problem scene with one of my betas in the break room at work only to glance up and discover we're being watched by someone who has this odd look on their face. It's hilarious.

Ah! I have on of those scenes! I wrote it and it was perfect and so emotional. Walked off and came back six months later, only to find it was very tepid at best. It has since been rewritten and I love it. :D

Unknown said...

That was an awesome experience from writer's group!

I have often cried while writing scenes. I have also been freaked out while writing others. It's funny when that happens. Of course my family, they don't get it.

WilyBCool said...

Capturing emotion is the gift of a writer. For me that is the gift that makes them great and separates them from the crowd. When you read or hear Shakespeare's banter of a love struck fool, such as in As You Like, you realize just how elated and confused love can make you. When you read Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, you feel the dread and panic as he runs from the horrors of wars.

This is what drives us, I think as writers, to communicate what is not normally communicated by written word. To perform the magic that a musician or actor does and to do it in a way that they cannot.


Writer Pat Newcombe said...

You are so right, Peggy. Emtion is the key to capturing the true essence of a story and it is needed take the reader right along with it. But as you say, it is one of the most difficult things to master. As usual love the quote - so apt!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a great evening, Peggy! Congratulations!

I can appreciate your difficulties with capturing feelings. It's even difficult for non-fiction writers to emotionally move people on paper, but the more I write, the more I discover how important it is. Thanks for the reminder.

Leigh Covington said...

That is seriously one of the best critique group moments, EVER! Hilarious!

And... that is a great quote. So true. I can completely relate to your story.

Now I'm going to eat those cookies!

Julianne Donaldson said...

I love that story! And the quote. It's good to be reminded of how lofty our goals really are, so I don't settle into mediocrity. Thanks for the cookies!

Romance Reader said...

What a story! Thanks for sharing. And an awesome quote! Ohhh...drool...cookies!

Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking said...

That is a really nice quote and those cookies look delicious!!

Ryan said...

You did a good job when you talked to Brandon's class. It was especially nice to hear your experience with Sara Crowe because she's currently considering my full. Thanks for sharing.

Charlie N. Holmberg said...

That is probably one of the hardest things for me to do--conveying my characters' emotions. What do I say? How do you turn that feeling--especially if it's an unfamiliar feeling--into words on a page? Any tips on that would be MUCHO appreciated, by-the-by.

Glad Sanderson's class went well!