Writing Out Your Knots

The Nerdy Chicks had a great post in the fall which is still sticking with me. They shared soundbites from YALLFest, which sounds like a raucous hoedown (a redundancy, of course there's no such thing as a boring hoedown), but is actually a YA Lit event.

I particularly sparked to Rainbow Rowell's quote  (as quoted by Jocelyn Rish):  “Writing about real things lets you work through your knots through your characters.”

So true. Writing is great therapy. It’s always interesting to see the “knots” which end up in my stories by some subconscious mechanism.

I was exceptionally blessed with "knots" in the last 12 months. The challenges haven't literally appeared in my writing, but the underlying feelings interloped on a regular basis.

(Image by John Byer via sxc.hu)
I was stunned the first time this realization hit.  A critique partner helped me with a query letter for a sweet, nature-inspired, quiet book. 

She said, "Well, since it's about death, you should include ...."
To which I said, "What's that now?"

This was a picture book after all. But in this quiet book, I had unwittingly worked through all the sorrow of a loved one's passing. Wow. 

When hard times strike, I'm like Jane Yolen's dinosaurs - I don't gnash my teeth, stomp around and roar.  Nope. I tie my shoes tighter and smile because I have to.  So, having the opportunity to work through difficult times with the words on the page has been an important development for me. 

So when a recent critique said, "Well, it's okay, because your character's really not lost after all, is he?" 

I had to take a second to think. I suppose I’m not. I mean, I suppose he's not really lost. When those times strike which make you feel a little lost, even though you followed every step on a map, know you can always find your way again by just putting your fingers on the keyboard. 


  1. Yowza - you must have an incredible crit group! I'd love to hear such insightful feedback

    Now I'm quite tempted to draft a PB called "My Day at the Boring Hoedown" ;-)

    1. I have great critique groups! I'm sure there has been a boring hoedown at some point in human history. Perhaps the birch beer ran out or the cows were too shy to dance with the pigs. But then it's just a "barn dance" and doesn't get the title hoedown!

  2. Replies
    1. I suppose the inverse is true - you get to work out emotions reading too. I'm reading Harry Potter 7 right now, and I just keep feeling like I'm mad at Ron too!

  3. Wow. Very interesting thought. I am going to have to take a look back at my stories and see what it reveals about me. Hmmm....

    1. Well, here some themes I've read in your work... Lack of confidence. Resistance to doing what you're told. Going against the "rules." Yearning to be yourself. Looking for treasure and finding trash. Can't wait to hear if any of those have been unconscious additions :)

  4. I like the idea of "working through your knots". It wasn't until I started having other people read my writing that I realized how much of myself I was untangling. I never think I'm doing that. I always see my idea as something curious that I'm discovering. Funny how it works like that. :)

    1. it's funny how it works - but thank goodness it does!!!


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