Why I Listened to the First Word Tetris Podcast Episode Twice

Word Tetris is a podcast about revision, so it’s fitting that I listened to the first episode twice.

The first time was because Merrill Barr was interviewing John Rogers. (I am one of those people who started watching Leverage three years ago after seeing it on Seanan McGuire’s Tumblr and then never stopped watching Leverage. Also, I could do a whole ‘nother blog post about the stories we choose to return to. Maybe later.)

The second time was because the first time, nearly everything John Rogers said about writing was something I was also doing.

The thing about the midpoint of a story being a “false ending?” I had literally just written about that, in the introduction for The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2. (I used the term “trick ending.”)

The idea that the first draft is a way for you and the rest of the team to figure out all of the stuff that you don’t want in the second draft? I put that very phrase in an email that I sent to a client this summer.

The dream that if you just write something beautiful enough, all the doors will open for you—and then the realization that it’s actually about writing a bunch of stuff, some of it great, some of it good enough, and producing and producing and producing? Dreamed it. Realized it. (Still dream it sometimes.) I write 50,000 words a month, y’all—and that doesn’t count revisions.

The structure and the time blocking and the doing-the-same-things-in-the-same-order-every-day because writing takes mental energy and removing as much extraneous decision-making as possible gives you more energy for writing? THAT IS MY LIFE. I have the schedule. I sit in different places to do different types of work. I drink Huel for breakfast and lunch. I pixied my hair.

I also listened to the podcast the second time to remember all of the stuff I don’t currently do. The idea that the last line of the pilot should be the theme of the entire show, for example, could be roughly translated to “the last line of the first chapter should be the theme of the entire book,” and while I have a decent last line at the end of the first chapter of The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1, it’s not quite the theme:

Now they were going to make a different world for themselves, Rosemary and Jack and the three little girls in their sleeping bags with the nightlight plugged into the wall, the one thing Rosemary would forget to pack when they left the next morning. Her girls would discuss it like a lost treasure, this piece of plastic shaped like a castle that they no longer owned. It would be a reminder that there once was another bedroom and another city, and that even if they spent the rest of their lives together in this small Missouri town, they would always have come from somewhere else.

I like it, and that last line sets up some of the conflict in the early part of the book, but the theme of Biographies is more like “how do we become who we are?” (I mean, honestly, the whole book is trying to answer Meredith’s question: “Where are the biographies of ordinary people?”)

So a better last line, if I hadn’t already published the book, would be more like “and this town would shape whomever they became,” which is actually a terrible last line, but you get the point.

THE POINT IS THAT I CAN BE MORE SPECIFIC.

I love that so much of life is about being more specific.

I also love that the podcast ends with Rogers and Barr discussing writing as happiness. The act of writing. The everyday-doing-it part. Or, as Rogers puts it:

“Understanding that this is a physical process that can be hacked, listening to your body and listening to your emotions, and sometimes not trying to be great but trying to be happy will allow you to be great.”

I’m so happy to have found this podcast. (And yes, I subscribed to the Patreon.)

 

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