“It Does What I Want It To”

Thea Devine today, romanticizing perhaps, a long ago moment that’s stayed with me all these years.  My husband and I were in the living room and my youngest son was at his father’s desk fiddling around on my portable IBM Selectric (yes people, there was a portable Selectric back in the day, complete with canvas carrying case).  He must have been four or five at the time, just pounding away, when he suddenly looked up, his face all lit up, and exclaimed: “It does what I want it to!”

Even after all these years, I just LOVE that idea — because it could have meant the machine, or it could have meant (I prefer to think) the words.

Words did what he wanted them to.  As in, he chose the words, put them together and they expressed what he wanted them to.

Words do what WE, the authors, want them to.

When we let them.

How often we don’t.

When they scare us to death because they mean commitment and we’re not ready for that long-term relationship with a particular WIP.

When we’re facing a blank screen and the prospect of filling four hundred more of them with what, how many words??  Or there are still three hundred and fifty empty I-can’t-think-of-a-single-plot-point pages to write.

I know this:  if you’re staring at a blank screen, you can always write something, It doesn’t have to be for your WIP of the moment. It can just be.  But you always have words, even if sometimes it feels like they’re out to get you.  Or it may feel like they’re fighting you — and winning, and that you can’t write a grammatical sentence to save your life or a description in fewer than fifteen pages.

Well, everyone — this is a call to action.  People, take control!  Re-assess those soggy sentences, wrangle those restless verbs, slice and dice those irritating adverbs, show those pushy participles who’s the boss, and you will finally and happily make those wayward words  do what youwant them to.

Has your child ever said something that struck you as being relevant to writing?  Do you feel mocked by that empty screen?  If you felt you had control of words, would that help or hinder you?

Thea Devine is the USA best-selling author of twenty-five erotic historical and contemporary romances, and is just finishing Beyond the Night, the sequel to The Darkest Heart to be released by Pocket Star April 2013.

9 thoughts on ““It Does What I Want It To””

  1. Oh, yeah! All of the above, Thea. Thanks for reminding me that i am the author goddess–in control of the page. My son once told me to “keep your hair on,” Such good advice from a ten year-old. I still think about that when I’m in revisions and wanting to pull it out, LOL

  2. I typed many a college paper on an IBM Selectric, and made some decent beer money doing so for other people too. I don’t feel in control of my words until after I go back and fix them in edits/rewrites. But that’s the pantser in me. Another great post, Thea!

    1. Great posts, guys. I LOVED that old selectric — wrote nine books on it. And I often remind my self that I AM in control of those words even if it seems like I’m not (read: most of the time).
      Thanks for the wonderful responses.


  3. Great advice, Thea, and timely. Was wrassling with my own WIP today, terrified of those 400 blank pages. Then just started typing, and ideas started coming. Maybe not the best, but at least I’ll be able to cull the herd. : ) Loved Darkest Heart, by the way. Who knew what you could do with an earlobe?

    1. Thanks, Kristan! You might interested to know that plot point came directly from the fact MY pierced lobes bleed a lot whenever I’m at conference or out of town.

      I think everything we write is valuable, whether applicable to current projects or not. I write tons of doggerel and just save it, because — you never know!


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