Thursday, December 06, 2007

Never Say Never

Posted by Lynne

When my now eighteen-year-old daughter was a little girl, getting her face wet while playing in water was traumatic. Every summer, whether at the beach down the street or at the lake where we vacation, I'd play games with her aimed at getting her comfortable near water.

"No matter how big I get, I am never going to swim under water," she said.

I didn't tell her then what I knew, which was that some day she'd be completely comfortable with the idea. She would learn that there is little to fear when you trust that you can do it. And last summer she laughed when I reminded her of what she'd believed with every fiber of her being when she was five.

I reminded her after she did a hand stand off the dock--in her clothes.

"I'll never change my title." "I'll never kill off a character." "I'll never read my reviews."

It's fine to have convictions. In fact where would any writer be without them? Yet playing with the word never closes a mind. And a closed mind simply can't be open to new possibilities. Friend of our blog, Judy Merrill Larson wrote a wonderful blog entry about revision this week. She reminds us that every time we dip into our work truly open minded, we have an opportunity to re-vision our work in new and creative ways.

I've been thinking about this a lot during the last few weeks. My novel has been edited and submitted to my editor and I am deep into crafting my work-in-progress. I've come a long way over the last few years in terms of keeping an open mind about my work. I think we become more narrow minded when we're afraid. Fear of feedback. Fear of rejection. Fear of acceptance. These are the things that lock us on to our convictions. Arbitrary yet comfortable thinking that may or may not be in our best interest, or in the best interest of our work.

Now that I am entrenched in writing my second novel, I realize that the beauty of the first draft is its limitless possibilities. I'm not tied to any one conviction, because each day I put my characters in circumstances that allow their transformations to begin. I'm not married to any one situation or scenario, I just want to create scenes that show the reader what I know about a mother struggling to connect with her children because of the distant relationship she had with her own mother. I want readers to feel the breadth of another woman's love for one man, and why this love had the power to lock her in the past.

To show this, to truly convey it, I'll need to listen to my characters tell me their stories. I'll need to let them show me the way. Their journey, and mine, will have its twists and turns, there will be days when together we'll be lost and days when the way is made clear. Now that I've completed one novel, one that has changed along its way, I'll trust the process.

I've decided to leave the word never out of my vocabulary, and like my daughter take the plunge. I'm comfortable submerging myself in writing this story, letting it take me to places I've yet to imagine. It is with an open mind that I'll get to the end of the story.


kristen spina said...

Thank you, Lynne, this is a lovely post. Just exactly what I needed today!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Thanks, Kristen. I'm happy my reflections gave you a lift. And thank you for taking the time to say so.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Hi Lynne,

Ooh, "take the plunge"--I love the imagery of that, of allowing yourself to submerge into the story. And trusting that you'll get to the end eventually, whatever and wherever that end is. Thanks for this. And for the link over to my post on revision. We learn so much from one another, don't we?

Oh, and I was one of those kids who wasn't going to get my face wet, either!

Lisa Marnell said...


When the group looked at the first final draft of my current WIP, I was advised to really think outside the box, imagine possibilities. I have done so and it has led me in a direction which is totally different. I love this line in today's entry.

"I realize that the beauty of the first draft is its limitless possibilities."

It's so true!

It reminds me of a line in "You've Got Mail" when Meg Ryan's character must close her small children's book shop. Her older friend says, more or less, "It takes courage to imagine a different reality". SO true when we revise to improve our work.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Hey Judy,

You bet we learn a lot from each other. I loved your post on re-vision. And I, too, adore Stegner's Crossing. Thanks for sharing your insights.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


I love the line about it taking courage to imagine a different reality! How beautiful, how true. I can't wait to read your revision. Your writing is gorgeous, your characters so dear. Keep taking the plunge--who knows where it will bring you!


Unknown said...

I lived for a while in a rural part of New England and loved walking in the deep, dark woods. When I first arrived there, timidly I stuck to the well-worn paths, called "tote" roads. Along them I would see other small, beguiling paths whose way and end I couldn't know. Would I get hopelessly lost if I ventured upon them? Well, throwing caution to the winds, I began to go on these other paths. Sometimes I got into trouble, like impenetrable bramble or wet, boggy areas. But often I came upon beautiful small vistas, sun-filled glens, and beautiful moss spilling out of fallen trees.

I won't draw the analogy but...


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


What a lovely metaphor. It makes me want to take a break for a walk. Thanks for stopping by and offering a great analogy!


Larramie said...

As the saying reminds us: Never say never." And, if you do, 99.9% of the time it will lead to the opposite effect! ;)

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Hi Larramie,

We have these sayings for a reason! Thanks for dropping by, I always love seeing those daisies.


Tina Ann Forkner said...

And it's something you won't want to forget as you write more books. I'm on book three, while waiting for the first in the contract to release. It can be harder to focus and not censor yourself with so much else going on around you. It's good to keep being reminded to take the plunge. Thanks.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm still not reading the reviews.


mohanley5 said...

The more I read this blog, the more I wish I saw that note tacked up in the library asking for writers to join a writers'group...

The commitment to learning the craft, challenging each other to bring out the absolute best writing possible, in a most nurturing, trusting emnvironment is just so commendable. I envy you (not in a jealous way, of course:), and thank you for so much that I have learned here, checking in on a daily basis for the past several months.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Hello Tina and Mo,

Yes, we need to continue to heed the advice to take the plunge. And to nurture each other through face-to-face or online communities. Thank you both for stopping by.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Dear Amy,

You won't have to read your reviews. I will, and then I will tell you what I already know they will say so eloquently. Amy MacKinnon is a star, and Tethered an accomplished debut!


Therese Fowler said...

You all are just oozing wisdom this week, while I am splashing around in the lake that is my wip. (How's that for mixing metaphors?) It's nearly as much fun for me to observe your journeys as it is for me to muddle through my own!

Shauna Roberts said...

Thanks for the reminder to sit back and enjoy my first draft as it unfolds and not look ahead and worry about all the improvements that need to be made in the second draft.

Carleen Brice said...

Thanks for linking to my book!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


No worries, you have done your share of wisdom sharing. Keep up with the wip, we'll wait for you!


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...


Sometimes that's easier said than done. But do let the story unfold, there are always surprises to be found.


Linking to your book was our pleasure!


Anonymous said...

Dear Mom,

Not only can I swim underwater now, but I took the plunge and cleaned my room today! I thought of you.


p.s. I think that photograph of me is quite flattering!