Friday, May 30, 2014

Entry # 215 - Did You Hear the One About the Wood Carver, Miner, & Surgeon?

Rainbow 2 - Photo Credit - Jim Wilson - 2013
What does a wood carver, a surgeon and a miner have in common with a writer? Sounds like the punch line for a joke. And what does this rainbow photo from my friend, Jim Wilson have to do with the topic? Nothing! I liked it. But about the topic, here's this. I am reminded that Annie Dillard said,
 “When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of the words is a miner’s pick, a wood carver’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.”

Some writers take a long time to shape the words on the page. Some take weeks, months, even years to match the vision to the page. Others write frantically, even feverishly until they’ve no more words left in them. I’ve read that Jack London wrote 16 hours a day, then went out drinking - only to stagger home and write more. He is said to have written about 50 books in 15 years. Then he killed himself at age forty. And of course trouble like this is not uncommon for writers many of whom are too hard on themselves. Their inner demons struggle with their expectations. One thinks of Virginia Woolf or Hemingway who were poster children for writers with issues. The list of troubled writers is long with lines of wasted talent for those who died too young from overwork and unrealistic expectations. 

So it seems important for a writer to get a good grip upon what’s possible and what makes for a successful productive day in the creative world.  And I believe it varies - from day-to-day, week-to-week, and writer-to-writer.

I’ve read that poet Donald Hall, poetry editor of the Paris Review said in a newspaper interview that it took him three-to-five years to get from his idea for a poem to the finished, published work.  Flaubert was said to spend as much as a week writing a perfect single paragraph.

George Sand wrote seven plays, a four-volume autobiography, and more than 50 books using . . . wait for it . . . A Quill! A QUILL!!  Hard to imagine isn’t it.
About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan's stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers.

A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.  Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: or  visit blog:


  1. ...I love the analogy Jan. I need to take writing more seriously, as I love to write. I write, when it hits me. Sometimes I just sit and start writing, not knowing where it will lead me. I so love to write, I keep telling myself, "when I retire"...I will have the time. Sad, isn't it...Love your wonderful blog! (I need to get a NAME too! LOL) RW

  2. I have found that just setting aside a specific time - even 15-20 minutes at a set time each day - and at a time nothing else is likely to claim your attention - if you put a pen to a page - to capture ideas that you can develop later, you will begin your writing journey. And thanks so much for sharing your comments and reading my blog. Feel free to share it with others who might be interested. Jan