The Oracle


Anyone remember a trilogy from the 90’s called The Matrix? I thought so. It was a thought-provoking series for many of us and enjoyable on many levels. I’ve been thinking about one particular line from the first film a lot lately. It’s when Neo visits the Oracle. She gives him the following advice about being “the one”.

        “Being the one is just like being in love. No one can tell you you’re in love. You just know it. Through and through. Balls to bones.”

Writing is a lot like this for me. I know I’m a writer, have known it for longer than I have vocally admitted it. It is as the oracle said something that you know balls to bones. I have that level of understanding about what I am, but these days, I’m questioning that level of commitment in my craft. The writing is solid but my ‘life’ has been on a collision course with chaos for two years, and I have begun to realize that I did something smart for me on a personal level and deadly on a writing level. Emotionally, I clocked out. This has allowed the horrid circumstances surrounding me to not destroy me. However, my writing has all the emotional honesty of a pet rock.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been an honest writer. I’d love to lay it all on the page the way Les Edgerton does. I read his stories and the gut ravaging honesty is in every word, hell, every bit of punctuation. Of course, the second semester of grad school I was given two mandates – no more emotion and no more killing. Man, I write mysteries. Killing people was what I did best, and I lived for it. It was both the worst and the best thing that ever happened to me. My writing itself improved. The melodrama disappeared (I hadn’t even realized it was there), and I found the drama inherent in life beyond dead bodies. Still, it may have done more damage than I realized.

After grad school, I was a writer by definition. I sold my stories. I marketed my YA novel. But I am sad to say that I am a bit adrift. I’m a mystery writer having difficulty killing people. I have an adult mystery novel based on one of the worst of all emotional situations for a parent – that of a missing child – and I’m having difficulty getting that voice out of my head. No emotion! No killing! I yell at it to shut up, and it simply yells louder.

Now, the Oracle’s voice is replacing it, telling me to go all in “balls to bones”. I have to put as much of myself into the writing as exists in me. If it truly is all of me, I have to find a way to shove aside the doubts, the voices that say anything other than, “Write!”

What do you do when your commitment waivers?

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3 Comments

Filed under Writing

3 responses to “The Oracle

  1. Thanks for the praise, Dawn, but I have another writer to thank for whatever honesty my work contains. I learned early on that the difference between great writers and good writers (other than that talent thing…), was that the great writer was willing to go to that dark place that resides within us all and put that on the page. However, that’s easier said than done. It was when Phyllis Barber, my first adviser at Vermont, told me that “no intelligent reader will ever assume the protagonist is the author” that I was able to go to that dark place on a regular basis. Phyllis was right–no intelligent reader will make that assumption–but as we all know, all readers aren’t intelligent. The trick is to ignore those folks.

    The other trick is to realize that every man Jack and every woman Jill among us has that same dark place. As that great Canadian philosopher, Red Green said, “We’re all in this together. I’m pulling for ya.”

    True that…

    • dawnall

      Thanks, Les. Only one time have I felt like I made it to that dark place. I sold the story and was proud of it. People kept saying I’d never been to jail. I’ve never been male either and the main character was. Human emotions resonate across gender and age. The jail part I got from a student who I delivered his lessons to jail. I suspect learned more from him than he learned from me.

  2. Ohh, how I enjoy reading about other authors struggling. Mind you, it’s not because I want them to have a hard time, of course, but because it reminds me that I’m not the only one ou there. It is a validation of sorts that tells me “I am on the right path.”

    Thanks for putting this out there and, because your post made me think it I thought I’d offer up an idea. If you’re having a hard time writing about a murder, which is of course necessary for a murder mystery…or is it?

    Could you come up with a story in the vein of Minority Report, in which a murder doesn’t actually happen but there is the threat of one?

    I don’t, just an idea.

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