Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Saturday, June 02, 2007


I almost posted an email on the Crusie & Mayer blog to apologize to them for my incessant arguing when they are spending a great deal of time sharing their writing knowledge, but I refrained because I wasn't sure how that would come across, either. So I'm posting it here, instead.

You see, I argue to understand. The process of arguing lets me think through a new idea, poke at it, come up with exceptions, and then in the long run, understand how to implement or adopt it.

Unfortunately, that is not how that process comes across to other people. This point was vividly brought home to me by a brief conversation with my mother, a few months prior to her death.

"I wish you wouldn't argue about everything," my mom said.
"But I'm not really arguing," I replied.
Mom sighed. "You always argue--you always have. Why can't you just do what we ask for once without arguing?"
"I usually do end up doing what you suggested--I do listen to what you say."
"But not without arguing about it first and by the time you're convinced or do something, I'm already tearing my hair out because you're so stubborn."

That's the problem. I know I seem stubborn because I argue about everything, but I'm helpless to stop that behavior. It seems to be essential for me to process new information and understand how to deal with it. How to make it fit.

To other people, I just seem argumentative and by the time I actually DO do what they say, they already feel like they've lost the argument and any sense of satisfaction is gone (when I do end up doing what they asked). And I'm sorry for this, because I--on the other hand--feel like "things went really well" and that we're all in sync with one another when I do work it out.

Mostly because to me it's not an argument, it's a debate. And I can get all fired up but five minutes later, I'm smiling again and don't have that lingering aftertaste you get with a real argument. That's really the difference between a debate and an argument. You get just as emotional and fired up with both of them, but when a debate is over there are no hard feelings. At least on my part. I can't remember five minutes later what it was about and an hour later, I've worked the suggestion into my mental processes to the point where I'm perfectly comfortable with it.

I mean, like this whole "you can't have characters hiss, sigh, moan, groan, or whatever in dialog when you write." I argued about this on the Crusie/Mayer workshop. In point of fact, during recent years, I actually haven't had any characters hiss/sigh/moan/groan dialog. I use said and reply most of the time. But I still needed to work through that argument because it's the way my mind works and I wanted to work out if there were any exceptions or things to "watch out for".

If I'm not arguing about something, it's because I either don't care about it, and/or I am NOT going to do it (so there's no point in discussing it). A lot of people I work or associate with have never actually realized this, but if I don't argue the point, THAT'S when the other person has a problem with me. Because I'm most likely not going to concede their point or do what they want and I don't care enough about it to talk about it. Silence is not golden nor is it accorde. It is the absence of sound and therefore, an absence of agreement.

So, apologies to Jen and Bob for my incessant arguments, but realize that this means I am taking what you say to heart and trying to work it into my writing.

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