5 Ways To Write Through The Fog

Do you ever feel as though you’re writing through fog - that the mists have come down and you just can’t see where you’re going?

I’m sure we’ve all felt like that sometimes, and this week’s podcast (3mins 54) looks at thing we can do what that happens - when the mist comes down and we need to pick our way out of the fog.

It was inspired by a day of freezing fog in Edinburgh yesterday - and the realisation that although fog means reduced visibility, it also makes us more aware of other things, things that count in our writing too.  What I became aware of was:

Points of light: car headlights pointing the way, beams that cut through the gloom

Patterns: we see less of the detail, but more of the pattern, shape and outline

Movement: we tune into shifts and changes that signal movement - of people, cars, buses

Sounds: although fog is muffling we tune into sounds because we can see less - the sounds carry meaning

Breath: the thing I was most aware of was my own breath, and the breath of other people - a sign of warmth, of life, of our shared human experience

And the writing lessons and questions I took from this were:

Light: What’s shining out at you from your words?  What’s pointing the way for you, or your reader?  How could you add more light?

Patterns: When you step back from the detail what patterns can you see, what shapes and outlines emerge?

Movement: When you look at your writing what movement can you sense?  How could you get your words to move more?

Sounds: How does your writing sound to you?  Which words and phrases resonate?  Could you add more patterns and rhythm to create a stronger sound?

Breath: When you look at your writing - can you notice your own breath?  How do you know that’s what it is?  How could you breathe more life into your writing?

Can you think of any others - things we become more aware of when the fog comes down?  Writing lessons and questions that we could apply to pick our way through the fog?

18 Comments

    • February 20, 2008

    Joanna,

    This post came just as I was beating myself up for being “foggy.” This week I have struggled to make the words work and your post was just the breath I needed to light the way. Thank you so much for always sharing such great information. I’m now off to meet those deadlines!

    Karen

  1. Hi Karen, that’s great.

    And you know beating yourself up never did anyone any good - a breath of life will work much better :-)

    Joanna

    • February 20, 2008

    Hi Joanna - sometimes I feel as though I’m living in the fog, never mind just writing in it. So, these tips are extremely useful.

    The sounds one does help a lot. For me, it sometimes takes actually reading something out loud to see what I need to change.

    Now I’ll try the others too.

    • February 20, 2008

    Oh Joanna, that was such a lovely interpretation of a really very gloomy day. I particularly like point number 5 about breath and about recognising your own breath in your writing. I find it such a thrill when other people can recognise my breath in my writing. It signals to me that I am being true to myself and to my words.

  2. Catherine, I hope the fog clears soon!

    Reading it out makes a difference - it’s often suggested as a way of picking up errors, but also a great way to tune into the pattern and rhythm of your writing, to notice phrases that resonate, that really touch and connect.

    Joanna

  3. Amy, that was the bit that connected to me too.

    As I was standing at the bus stop, watching my breath, it reminded me of words and writing - sometimes I think of writing (I hope this isn’t too fanciful) as breathing out fire. And when I coach people it’s because I want to help them breathe out that fire too.

    There’s a connection too to aloha - something I’m eagerly learning about from Rosa Say:

    Aloha literally translates to “being in the presence of the life’s spirit,” and it is a sharing which is therefore thought of as the outpouring and receiving of a person’s inner spirit.

    http://www.managingwithaloha.com/aloha.html

    Joanna

    • February 20, 2008

    If you’ve ever driven in a real pea-souper then you will realise there are times when it’s safer to pull over to the side and wait till it clears.

    Most of us are unaware of how unhealthy we are. We get used to what is normal for us, grin and bear it. Brain fog is an extremely common condition and there are a lot of different causes. A great many writers live lives where they push themselves, they’ll work 40 or often more hours per week and then come home and write into the wee hours. Pushing yourself to the limit, ruining your health for the sake of your art may sound romantic but it’s plain stupid. I wish I’d seen what was up ahead for me years ago but I was blinded by fog, metaphorical and physiological.

    The cure for brain fog obviously depends on the underlying cause. It can take months to get better but if you fall back into the same old lifestyle then don’t be surprised to see it come back and with a vengeance. Sometimes you have to stop, really stop, let the fog clear, take stock and change your lifestyle.

    http://www.drlwilson.com/articles/brain_fog.htm

    • February 20, 2008

    How wonderful this is Joanna; as others have said here, you write so enticingly to the writer’s muse in us all! I love the way you were able to focus in that moment at the bus stop and drink in the all of your life at the time, and then share it with us here in such a giving way. And yes Joanna, *that* is aloha. As you have explained, aloha is quite literally the full expression (alo) of our ‘breath of a life’ (ha), and for a writer, I’d say that aloha writing is ‘me, myself and I’ writing *shared* —it is that sharing part that is so vitally important for aloha to truly appear. Many k?puna (elders) will explain that aloha begins in one person, but finishes when there are at least two.

    It is a marvelous thing that we can actually see our breath when it’s cold; I remember how mesmerizing that was for me the first time it happened, for unless you are at the summits of our highest mountains here, that is not something you experience in Hawai‘i. Yet in our culture, our ha may very well be the most tangible thing we are sure of.

  4. Jim, I wasn’t intending to write about a real pea-souper but your comments are a reminder to me to be careful in my choice of words.

    I hadn’t really thought about brain fog being a ‘condition’ in the way you’re talking about, or that’s described in the article you linked to.

    I was thinking more of times when we think we can’t see the way - but find when we change perception or switch state there’s a whole lot of interesting and exciting stuff that we can notice precisely because the outlook is a little different to normal.

    Thanks for the reminder to take good care of our health

    Joanna

  5. Rosa, thank you so much for joining the conversation and helping to explain this… way of being - for my benefit and for others who are reading. It gets to the heart of what I’m trying to do which is why I love hanging out with you!

    The part that really blew me away though was seeing your breath in the cold air - something we take for granted, like changes in the seasons, things that are etched into our way of thinking and being, never once stopping to think that there might be totally different experiences of the world.

    I think when you come to visit Scotland Rosa that we should make it the winter months - although the grey and gloom can be miserable there’s nothing like a cold crisp sunny winter’s day - or even watching the outline of the castle rock emerge from the mist :-)

    Joanna

    • February 20, 2008

    That sounds like a great plan Joanna ~ for you I will conveniently forget about my normally low threshold for withstanding colder temperatures! Then again, time spent with you in person promises to be as warm an experience one could possibly hope for.

    The day will happen that I am there with you Joanna!

    • February 21, 2008

    Joanna - I love your idea of breathing out the fire.

    But, what on earth is a pea-souper? I love pea soup, but I’ve never driven in it.

  6. Catherine, you’re too young to have driven in a pea-souper. In fact they were so thick people could hardly walk in them, never mind drive.

    A pea-soup fog is an expression for the thick, yellowy smog that they used to have in London before the clean air act.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pea_soup#Pea_soup_fog

    Although like Jim I’m familiar with the expression as “a pea-souper” (normally “it’s a real pea-souper”) rather than pea soup fog.

    I’m trying to think where I’ve heard it or read it - probably in old films.

    Lesson over!

    Joanna

    • February 25, 2008

    Aloha in A Love Affair with Writing

    Joanna Young of our Ho‘ohana Community recently commented for me at Talking Story, writing, Rosa, I was thinking about you and writing this morning, when I was writing about the breath of life we can see or feel in our

    • March 21, 2008

    “Inspiration” is ‘in-spirit.’ Thus Inspiration is Aloha.

    HCer* Joanna Young has been asking us this month, “What inspires you?” Her theme for her coaching at Confident Writing has been Fire-Breathing Dragons: Inspiration Is The Theme For March, a follow-up to another conversation I was delighted to participa…

    • April 5, 2008

    Hau‘oli la hanau to Joanna Young!

    Surely you know Joanna by now too: She is the personification of our Ho‘ohana Community in Scotland! Today is her birthday. Because of Joanna, I can now spell Edinburgh right the first time, without checking, and knowing that she is

    • April 5, 2008

    i’ve been extremely nearsighted for most of my life and this post makes me think not only of fog, but of the way the world looks to me without glasses or contacts… i was always a nuisance until i started studying art, at which time i learned to value the unique perspective on things that came through altered vision. i believe i’d actually hesitate to get corrective surgery because i am not sure i want to lose the ability to see things that way!

    wonderful post, and what a nice podcast — you have such a lovely voice! a genuine pleasure to listen to.

  7. Hi Captain Stardust

    Thanks for the feedback on the podcast and for sharing your own experience of fogginess. I like the way you learned to value the unique perspective it gave you. I think that’s the secret to a creative life, don’t you?

    Best wishes

    Joanna

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