Finding Flow

When we were there, the national motto for the Philippines seemed to be “please bear with us.” There were handwritten signs at the resort with that line, asking us to have patience with certain doors that weren’t functioning correctly or credit card machines that were on the fritz. The currency exchange booths – which were essentially refrigerator boxes manned by a young woman with a folding chair, a cash box, and a calculator – also had these signs. You had to wonder whether they were ever taken down. Perhaps most disturbing were the “Please bear with us” signs at the ticketing desks at the airport. At one point, a woman in a polo shirt bearing the insignia of Cebu Air came out to the line of mostly Korean passengers and started collecting everyone’s passports. We handed ours over, the woman disappeared, and immediately we started wondering why the heck we had just done that. Oh, but there was a sign that asked for our patience. That’s reassuring.

Lately I’ve been feeling like the Philippines. I’m trying my hardest to be a better version of myself and to get things started, namely this supposed book that I’ve set out to write. Since last Wednesday, I’ve written about 2,500 words. When I step away from my computer, I’m pleased with what I’ve written, and then the next day when I reread it, I’m dissatisfied with it. The problem is that from one day to the next, I shift from being a beautiful place where everyone is friendly and the beer is cheap, to an island rife with violence and people getting their heads chopped off.

Neither are “bad,” as long as it’s not my head and the beer is mine. Both are interesting and make for good reading.

But which one do I want to be? Which one will this book be?

The answer is that it will be both, but the real challenge is creating something that isn’t completely disjointed and random.

So bear with me. I’m going to be trying out some new-for-me styles on the blog just so I can feel my way through them and see what works best for a long format piece. Your comments, as always, are heartily appreciated and extremely helpful. Have I told you all lately that I love you? Because I do.


  1. Consider me your oh so willing guinea pig. Western me. Epistolize me. Haiku me. Sonnet me. Police procedural me. Narrative me. Memoir me. I’ve raised three children. I can take it.

    1. Haha you are so much more to me than a guinea pig, Mama MB ;) You do indeed wear a lot of hats! Hadn’t thought of the police procedural, but that does lend itself well to birth stories. Maybe.

  2. Bring it, Em. This novel-writing is not for the squeamish. Just write and try not to go back and keep editing, editing, editing. Get it out and after about 60 or so pages, print it out and read. Good luck and I look forward to hearing more about this exquisite journey you’re embarking on. xxoo.

    1. That is some solid advice. Editing is what brings me down. I probably could have finished college an entire semester early if I hadn’t been so mental about editing every sentence 30 seconds after I wrote it. Thanks, Brig!

  3. krugthethinker · · Reply

    I say awesome for trying new styles and for having patience and for bearing with yourself as you navigate new territories. Don’t forget that you contain multitudes:) From my dissertation experience, I can tell you that revising is often so much more painful than writing: ugghhh. But you do get into a rhythm with it, and bursts of inspiration never fail to alight on your shoulders when you least expect it. I think the very best thing to do is to surround yourself with people who love and support you. I am one of them! Also, amazing job on all you have written so far! The only thing worse than revising is the blank page, so I give you mad props for all the hard work you’ve already done! You are awesome, and don’t you forget it.

    1. Oh those multitudes. Having C now gives a whole new meaning to “I contain multitudes”! Ha! You are such an encouragement to me, besfrinn. I love you. I am so lucky to have you to guide me through this.

      1. krugthethinker · · Reply

        I feel like it definitely goes both ways! I just remembered something else that used to help me. When I was working on a chapter, I would do a bit of cursory reading and editing on the computer, and then when I was more or less done writing, I would print the whole thing out and sit at the kitchen table with a pen in my hand. Maybe it’s because I’m such a visual person, but I always found that being able to flip through the pages helped me see if things needed to be moved around, and, miraculously, things were never as bad as I imagined they were! So excited for you! And love you!

  4. Remember Rex Stout never edited anything…I find that amazing…and reassuring :) –
    I had a ‘debate’ (well, it turned ugly at one point…) about the merits of writing with minimal edits to writing – waiting 24 hours and rewriting… I’m in the first camp…this was over poetry – but I think it could be argued with poses too. Your style is your style…we fight against the grain so much b/c we think everyone else knows the right answer… whatever is your right answer is your right answer – if you know what I mean. Experiment but remember not to lose the essence of yourself.

    1. I know exactly what you mean! I wish I could write with no edits. Unfortunately I am no savant. ;)

      1. Hee hee.. me either – damn that Rex Stout and his amazing brain!!!

  5. I experience the same feelings as you when I write. One day I think it’s great; the next it’s not at all what I’m going for. Good luck in finding your stride.

    1. Thanks, Carrie! I was hoping you’d comment, knowing that you’re miles ahead of me in this whole process.

      1. But no less unsure. :)

  6. But, just maybe disjointed and random is your style! Maybe that IS your unique voice, your brand. I eat up your blogs because they’re Forrest Gumpish chocolates–I never know what I’m going to get, and I love that about your writing. In the end, it isn’t truly disjointed because your one-of-a-kind voice runs consistent and clear throughout all your topics. I say, WRITE. Let it be imperfect and unedited for now. And, as a first time novelist myself, I will pass on the best advice that I received during the five years it took me to birth my book into a publisher’s hands: Just keep your butt in the chair.

    (As much as Miss C will let you, of course…)

    1. That is some solid advice, for sure! Just finding the time to sit down to write is part of the struggle.

      Thanks for the encouragement. It’s reassuring that you can still tell that it’s me even though I blog about such a spectrum of things. ;D

  7. My advice is just get it out and don’t worry about it being perfect. That comes later.

    1. Thanks ;) Clearly EL James only followed the first part of your advice.

      1. Haha, I thought I was the only one who noticed some major grammar, editing and redundancies in that trilogy…and I’m only an English major wannabe!

  8. Get it, girl. 2,500 is nothing to sneeze at! Just move forward, don’t re-read unless you have to for continuity. Then when it’s “done” (aka first draft has been pooped out of your brain) you can re-read the whole thing.

    1. I am so lucky I have you and all these real writers to give me advice! I think you’re one step ahead of me on both the book-writing and baby-making fronts, and I’m so glad.

      1. Then you’ll lap me because I can’t even look at my first draft anymore. So I’m starting over and stuck right at the beginning. Ride the wave, dear! Don’t look back!

  9. a gripping life · · Reply

    I second guess everything I do. I’m totally self critical. With writing, there’s an infinite number of ways to go so you get a little mental. Far be it for me to give you advice. I’m the girl that had FRAG (fragment), R.O (Run on) and AWK (awkward) all over every paper I’ve ever written.

    I will say that choosing a voice and sticking with it makes writing a bit less mental, at least for me. I’ve used movie characters for my voice before. For example, I’ve used the voice of Diane Keaton’s character in Baby Boom for certain writing assignments. I’ve even put pictures of the character on my computer to stay in that voice. You could use book characters, too. It still ends up being an original voice but this gives you a parameter so that you don’t end up sounding schizophrenic.
    That’s my crap dyslexic advice. What helps one person may be completely off putting to another.

    You’re a terrific writer, Emily. So talented. Just do what feels good and instinctive. It will be a gem. (I’m like you, I constantly go back and edit! Oy vey!)

    1. I am beginning to think you are my Internet blog mom. (No pressure.) I hope Lily doesn’t mind sharing. I will gladly take your advice anytime, Lisa! You speak from experience and that’s something I only have a certain amount of. Thank you so much for your encouraging words!

  10. Good luck. I know that feeling of “Gee, this is pretty good,” followed the next day by “What the hell was I thinking?”

    1. Ha! It’s amazing how ideas that I have lying in bed at 3AM sound wonderful and then by 11AM I’m totally over them.

  11. My advice if you’re looking for a quick change is to latch onto something else and make it a high priority in your life. What I mean by that is say for instance you have a friend who is writing or has written a book. Go all out in supporting and loving what they are doing or have done. Not only will this help to motivate you when the kinks in your own head get sorted out, they should be able to return the favor when the time is right. I’m not sure if that helps with your problem, but it’s a good thought nonetheless.

    Don’t get discouraged if you hate what you’ve written. First draft is getting it all out there. If you hate it after the second draft THEN maybe you wasted your time. Focus first on plot and that it makes enough sense. If it’s going anywhere then you’ll figure it out fine.

    1. Very timely advice. My best friend is working on a book right now too so we’ve been keeping tabs on each other and encouraging each other along the way. She lives in LA and I live in North Carolina, so it’s interesting to be so far away but have similar projects right now.

      Thanks for your input! Since you just finished your own book, I really value your opinion, Tim.

      1. Really that worked? I just jumbled some words together without any consideration to accuracy.

        But seriously, push yourself through it. Right now I have 4 ideas for things I want to start working on and the hardest thing is getting started. I started an outline yesterday and even though it’s not much it makes me feel better to at least have a direction. You could always try doing that first, plot out what will happen. I know my things almost always end up better when I know what will happen.

        1. Ha! I can’t imagine what kind of fantastic advice you’d give me if you put a lot of thought into it! :D

  12. Looking forward to hearing different voices in your blogging (as opposed to in my head. Again.)
    Have to agree with J2 – keep on writing, then go back and read the whole to see how it hangs together.
    Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees when you’re stuck in the middle of it.

    Yeah, I just said “forest for the trees”.

    1. Hahaha I am a cliche whore myself (is that a thing? Now it is.) so I will not judge. It’s all in a day’s work for me to drop as many cliches as possible.

  13. bellissimom · · Reply

    Don’t be too hard on yourself. You are still in the baby brain fog stage of things. Just let the creativity flow for now and worry about perfecting things when the fog lifts. From what I hear that happens when you atop nursing.

    1. Thanks, Em. That baby brain can be a killer. Nowadays it’s hard to write too because baby C is rolling around all over the place. I used to could type with her curled up on my chest but those days are over. Sniff ;’)

      1. bellissimom · · Reply

        I know what you mean. It is so fun to see them be active and moving around but it certainly does take a way a bit of the freedom we had when they just slept all of the time!

  14. Looking forward to reading your different writing styles. Although I think you are perfect just the way you are.

    1. Aww, you’re so sweet. I hope you like what I’ve got on deck.

  15. ooh, I’m excited!

    1. Me too! In the same way I was excited about having a baby: nervous, and hoping that whatever I make doesn’t end up screaming at me all the time ;)

      1. LOL! I sincerely hope your book doesn’t poop on you or spit up in your hair.

  16. I know this probably sounds trite but E.B. White said, “The best writing is rewriting.” Or maybe it would sound trite if I was the first to say it considering that in real life I’m just an office drone? It takes time to get a story down and more time to get it right. Good luck!

    1. Not trite at all! I’m just impressed that you are aware that EB White wrote stuff other than Charlotte’s Web. I didn’t even know about the Elements of Style until I was waaaay finished with my degree in English.

      1. Well … I’m waaaay older than you and I’ve managed to retain a few nuggets of wisdom in the otherwise vast wasteland of my memories.

  17. The fact that you’ve written that much already is something to be proud of. Who cares if it doesn’t flow when you read it, or doesn’t sound the way you want it to sound. It’s only your first draft. You’re a great writer. You own voice is the one you should go with. Obviously, we as humans have many voices, but the one that you use most often, and feel most comfortable using should be the one you write in. Maybe not, but that’s how I would do it!
    Good luck, you’re awesome! :D

    1. Thanks, Lil! That’s a big encouragement, coming from you. And even if I do end up having a bunch of voices in the book, I can just label it as the memoir of a schizo ;)

Now you can hold the magic talking stick.

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