Taking Care of the Little Things

Hi Folks,

There’s some old wisdom that says if you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.

It’s true for gas tanks. If you keep the top half full, the bottom half will take care of itself.

It’s true for health. If you eat right and exercise, you won’t have nearly as many health problems as a lot of folks do.

And it’s true for writing. Oh man, is it ever true for writing.

A few posts back I wrote one called “A New Series of Posts.” This will expand a bit on the basic premise of that one.

For this discussion, consider learning all the mechanics and skills of writing the little things. And consider Writing the big thing. If you take care of the little things, the big thing will take care of itself. You only have to trust yourself and get out of your own way.

I advocate following Heinlein’s Rules and writing off into the dark. That’s all well and good as far as it goes. But following HR follows knowing how to spell, having a decent grasp of grammar and punctuation, and so on.

And trusting your subconscious to tell the story (writing off into the dark) follows having those skills imbedded in your subconscious.

But when you write into the dark, you aren’t supposed to think, right? You’re supposed to Just Write, right?


So how does the “right” grammar and punctuation and sentence structure and paragraphing and spelling get into your subconscious? I mean, if I’m writing a story, shouldn’t I make sure I use certain sentence structures in certain places? And doesn’t that require conscious thought?

Okay, slow down. One question at a time. The answer to the third question is Yes, and that’s precisely why the answer to the second question is No. When you’re writing a story, you shouldn’t “make sure” of anything. That’s your conscious mind trying to slow you down and eventually stop you from writing in order to save you the embarrassment of rejection.

When you’re writing a story, you should Just Write. You’re trusting that what you need in the way of grammar, punctuation, etc. is already in your subconscious.

Okay, but what about that first question? How does that knowledge get into the subconscious?

That’s where your conscious mind comes in. You LEARN with your conscious mind. You take classes and seminars. You read books about sentence structures and paragraphing and dialogue and dialect and adding depth to scenes and creating realistic characters and whatever else you think you need.

And what you actually DO need seeps into your subconscious. It’s permanent there. And it’s waiting until you need it.

Many of you probably think this is a bunch of hooyah (whatever hooyah is). You believe that yes, you actually DO have to think your way through which sentence structure to use where, or whether you used “that” too many times, or whatever else. So let me convince you otherwise.

When you’re in the midst of writing, do you have to stop with each keystroke and think about which letter on the keyboard to hit next? If you’re writing The Book, do you have to consciously think Well, I need a capital T to start. Okay, good. Then I need a lower-case H. Okay, then an E and then a space. Let’s see, that’s the wide thin bar at the bottom of the keyboard in the center. Do you have to do that?

Why not? Because you already “know” it?

That’s right. You don’t need to think about it because it’s already in your subconscious. Permanently. You took care of the little things.

And so are the various sentence structures (even if you can’t name them), and so is the grammar and punctuation and how to construct characters and how to have them speak dialogue that sounds real.

Okay, so does that mean you’re done? Does that mean you should stop learning and just write? Uhhh, no.

You keep learning (and unlearning bad stuff) and you keep writing. You use your conscious mind to think and learn and you use your subconscious mind to write.

Next time up we go over the lip of the abyss, into the mechanics and skills and specifics. Is that dramatic enough? (grin)


PS: In case anyone’s wondering about the “challenge” posts, I took both of them down. Apparently I wasn’t clear enough in explaining the concept, so maybe I’ll try again sometime but for now they’re pulled.

1 thought on “Taking Care of the Little Things”

  1. Kind’a like when I first learned to drive a stick-shift. I kept having to THINK where 1st, then 2nd, then third. Of course there was that darn clutch. But I finally got it. I could even DRIVE in the DARK! That’s not to say that I didn’t get lost once in awhile. But as long as I had gas (gas was 19 cents a gallon!) I would keep going. Thanks Harvey.

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