"It's impossible to discourage the real writers; they don't give a damn what you say." Sinclair Lewis

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Hungry Heart

One who works with his hands is a laborer.
One who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
One who works with his hands, his head and his heart, is a master.


Beyond the short drive down I-5 to Tacoma, over the huge toll bridge that crosses the narrows, Highway 16 winds its way through the evergreen trees of the peninsula. There the quaint little towns of Gig Harbor, Silverdale and Port Orchard beg me to come for a visit. They offer sandy beaches bordering Puget Sound, sail boats bobbing near the docks, blue waters glistening in the sun. And here I sit at my computer deleting yet another dreadful sentence.

Writing isn’t easy; you must develop discipline. It’s a labor of love, but a labor just the same. It’s creative in nature, yet no matter how imaginative the author, no matter how talented, you have to sit down at the computer and do the work. You must sit alone for hours writing, crossing out, and rewriting your sentences, your paragraphs, your chapters, until at last your book is complete. You invent heroes and heroines and put them in perilous circumstances. You create romantic encounters that cause your heart to flutter as you plot your story, but the book doesn’t get written until you do the laborer’s work.

Nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and prepositional phrases are tools of the writer. This is the craftsman portion of writing, but that’s not all. There are synonyms and antonyms. There’s the pattern of the scenes; goal, conflict, disaster, and the sequel scene that has reaction, dilemma and decision. There are the opening hook, turning points, midpoint and climax. You have to know how to handle dialogue, narrative, setting, and characterization. You must keep an active voice, avoid passive sentences and always stay within the boundaries the publisher dictates. You need to put all of it together in a way that keeps the readers turning the pages. And just when you think you’ve accomplished all that, you discover you have to write a cover letter, a query and. . . the dreaded synopsis. You persevere. You read, take classes, and study the works of fellow writers because you know you must stay alert to every aspect of the craft.

And of course you study the masters. One who writes with his heart won’t settle for anything but the best turn of the phrase. You describe just how the light slanted into the room, how the scent of roses made the air heavy with perfume, and how the hero’s heart grieved at the loss of his heroine in such a way that no one has described it before. You are ever in search of the perfect word. You strive to become a master. You work with your hands, your head, and your heart.

For example, I may tell you, “I love to travel. When I do, I learn about the people who live in the areas I visit. I won’t stop traveling until I am unable to make the trip.” Instead, Tennyson, the laborer, the craftsman, the master, said it like this:

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink life to the lees. . .
I am become a name; For always roaming with a hungry heart. . .
And this grey spirit yearning in desire to follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bounds of human thought. . .
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

To become a writer, you must have a love for the written word. The hours are long, the rewards are sometimes few. You reach down into the Cracker Jacks box of your soul and hope to come up with the prize. You pour out your precious words onto the paper with the chance that they might be rejected, but you write because you must. You write because something inside you yearns to be said.

--Maxine Metcalf
Maxine is the author of a psychology book, "Reality For Parents of Teens." She has written numerous articles on drug and alcohol rehabilitation, how the brain works, and setting and accomplishing goals. She has authored lesson manuals for teaching classes on cognitive self-change. Maxine attended college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Idaho State University. She counseled for a women's program, Discovery House and for Road to Recovery, a men's and Women's drug rehabilitation program. She taught prison rider return classes for Probation and Parole in the state of Idaho, taught in the women's prison, and worked with Child Protection Services in Idaho as well. Maxine currently runs a business, Lakeland gifts, @ www.lakelandgifts.com and writes fiction novels.


  1. Loved this post. I need little reminders like this now and then. Time to plunk back down into the writers chair and get serious. Thanks!

  2. Nice post. Yes, something insides us yearns to be said. We just have to find the right way to say it. :)

  3. Wonderful post!

    I'm visiting from Deb at Ranch Girl Ramblings!

  4. I really enjoyed this post. I found it to be very inspiring. :)

  5. Thanks for this post, Maxine. It was very inspiring.

  6. Wow grandma...that post was amazing, it makes me want to read your book. I have never read any of your stuff. You are amazing, get to publishing! ha, I love you sooo much!! ~Angie (your grandaughter (-; )