Knowing When to Be Quiet

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I am writing this on Thursday, May 28, after writing and rejecting two posts over the past week. You might or might not see them at some point in the future. One is about a couple of stories by Ray Bradbury that use climate in very different ways. The other is about the application to writing of the subject matter of what was once a regularly published newspaper cartoon whose author’s name has entered our lexicon.

You are not seeing either one of them now because I couldn’t hit the bullseye with either post. Both of them in my opinion had some great turns of phrase, were entertaining in places, and utilized multi-media presentations. They were ultimately, however, bowls of air that looked nice but were leaking badly, perhaps fatally so. If I wasn’t happy with them I didn’t think that you would be either.

The common denominator was me. I decided that at the core of each post I was being too clever and talking too much about things which really weren’t all that interesting to anyone outside of my own life at the moment. There wasn’t a fix, either. Pulling anything out caused the entire post in each case to collapse under its own weight. 

The major problem that a writer has — this writer anyway — is filling that white space with black letters. Resolving that problem isn’t enough.  Miles Davis used to say that in jazz knowing what not to play was as important as knowing what to play. The same is true in writing, whether it’s a post for your blog or your character’s interior dialog in your breakthrough novel or something in between. Sometimes it works. At other times you have to be quiet, walk away, and start somewhere else entirely. 

That’s what I am doing. Have a great weekend.

But wait, there’s more. Please permit me, in lieu of our regularly scheduled programming, to introduce to you a handy little tool called a “title case converter.” There are only a few rules to remember when properly capitalizing the words in a title but this is a quick and dirty way to check yourself to make sure that you have it right. Enjoy!

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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

22 thoughts on “Knowing When to Be Quiet

  1. Even when you’re saying “nothing,” you’re saying something, Joe. Enjoy your weekend.

  2. First! Thank you, Terry. You’re the best. Enjoy yours as well. I’ll get to mine as soon as I get done plowing the back forty, which is in need of some tonsure after all of the rain we’ve had!

  3. Good morning, Joe

    Sorry your posts didn’t come together the way you wanted them to. I’m certain that we would have found them interesting/useful/entertaining, anyway.

    Hopefully, the backyard farming will clear and reset your internal writing computer. I know that mindless physical work does wonders for me.

    Thanks for the link to the Title Case Converter. I bookmarked it. Great tool.

    Have a great weekend!

    • Thank you, Steve. I hope that you and Cindy enjoy a restful weekend after all of your good and hard work on the front lines!

    • Thanks, Alec. I’ve read a few as well. And written a couple, which will never see the light of day!

  4. Hi Joe,

    I second Terry’s comment.You say “nothing” with eloquence.

    There’s a stack of half-done, half-baked posts stored in my Word files that I started but didn’t finish. Some topics seemed promising but quickly ran out of gas; others just didn’t gel. As you say–it’s not the subject but the author who’s the problem.

    Physical labor that yields results you can see provides an important balance for us writers. Much of the work we do is intangible and invisible to others. Sometimes we just need to point to the garden we weeded or the pile of clean, folded laundry and say, “I did that.”

    Wishing you fresh air and sunshine for your labors!

    • Thank you, Debbie. You’re easy to please. One question…what’s this “weeding” thing in the garden?…

  5. “…knowing what not to play was as important as knowing what to play. The same is true in writing…”

    And in life…if we all self-edited our speech, maybe the world wouldn’t be in so much detritus.

    (Thanks for the post, and the link…)

    • You’re welcome, Deb, and thank YOU! I find as I get older that I need to use that self-editor more and more…

  6. I can relate, Joe. I think we all write “meh” posts from time to time. My hard drive stores several. The best part is, one day you’ll stumble across those old posts, read them with fresh eyes, and turn them into something special. Do you know how amazing you are? I could read your shopping list and be entertained. 🙂

    • Awww, Sue…thank you so much. You have made an old man blush! Consider your day’s duty done. Enjoy!

  7. Hi Joe,

    Such Zen-like wisdom in this post! (So, it fits that you had to put aside a post about Ray Bradbury, who wrote a book called “Zen in the Art of Writing 🙂 I’ve certainly had to put aside stories and novels, half-finished more than a few times. Sometimes, even more painfully, I’ve had to put aside drafted stories and novels, because they just were, as your delightful turn-of-phrase put it, “bowls of air.”

    Being quiet and listening, now there’s a skill to work on as a writer.

    Thanks for the great link to go with an insightful post!

    • You’re welcome, Dale. Thank you for your kind comments. People laughed when Yogi Berra said, in another context, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” It’s true!

  8. One of my teaching posts is about people who belittle us when we say we are writers of (insert any genre or type of writing here), and how we deal with this. Belief in ourselves and the love of what we do is the first and most important line of defense against these jerks. Belief in a subject and our love of it can turn a soap bubble article in to an enjoyable read for most people.

  9. I don’t remember the exact quote but the great choreographer George Balanchine was constantly tinkering with his ballets to make them more spare, less theatrical, and less plot-driven. (Abstract as opposed to say, Sleeping Beauty). He often said, paraphrasing, that the secret to artistic creation was knowing what to leave out.

    Have a good weekend.

  10. I guess the “less is more” concept applies to all sorts of artistic efforts, Kris, not to mention life in general. Thank you for sharing. You have a good weekend as well!

  11. Thank you for the Title Converter. I have bookmarked it. I entered the title of my WIP and it liked it. It came back with the chosen title. I’m a bit curious as a novice. I’ve read how many writers agonize over a title but this one came to me before I wrote a word. Is that usual? I hope it continues but I know things can change with each story. Thanks for all you do and all the other TKZer’s. Stay safe and healthy!

  12. You’re welcome, Rebecca. Re: your title coming to you before you started writing…that isn’t unusual at all, though may writers change their titles a few times while the work is in progress. Some just hang a name on it to distinguish from their other works. “Scrambled Eggs” was the working title for what became the song “Yesterday” by The Beatles.

    The great thing about a title is that you can change it at whim. When your hard work bears fruit and is bought for publication, your editor will probably what to change it too!

    Good luck and thanks for stopping by.

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