Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Confession: Inner Space Interview

“I was sitting here…replaying the incident over in my head when I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.”–Jules Winnfield

Man, this is going to sound weird. You’re all going to think I’m a total nut job, as if my anti-techno rants don’t already have you thinking that way. But what the heck.

Many professional athletes today practice ‘visualizing’. It can be something as simple as picturing themselves victorious, or can be far more complex. A relief pitcher might see himself coming into the game in the ninth inning with two outs, runners on the corners, and the BIG KAHUNA at the plate. He’ll envision the sequence, pitch by pitch, of getting the guy out. A goalie might see the opposing team on the power play. He follows imaginary pucks as the other team works it from D to D, from high to low, tries to go for the back-door play. A quarterback sees the blitz on third and long and is prepared to hit his hot receiver. You get the idea.

When I was a kid I’d ‘visualize’ all the time, only back then we called it ‘imagining.’ A favorite at a certain age was pretending the street was lava. I’d balance on the curb, and I’d see the road, not as solid black pavement, but as a viscous, bubbling red-and-yellow river that would burn me to a cinder if I so much as dipped a toe in it. I also saw myself hitting the grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning or scoring the Stanley Cup-winning goal in game 7 (overtime, of course; after scoring to tie the game in the last minute, too). Nothing unusual in any of this for a kid, I suppose.

I still imagine, and, as just about everyone who visits here is some kind of writer, I imagine you do, too. Only now, the dreams have changed. Now I visualize myself at author events, standing in front of an enraptured audience while I read an excerpt from my latest masterpiece. I have conversations with agents and editors, or get interviewd on something like Off the Page. Totally dorky, I know, and rather embarrassing to admit it, but visualizing positive results supposedly works for some people (honestly, it can be a good way to psyche yourself up or motivate yourself). Athletes use it both to calm down and prepare for any situation that might arise in a game. For me, it’s always been more of a fun little fantasy, though I do think about the questions I’ll ask and the answers I’ll give when I get THE CALL from Dream Agent, even though I know I’ll end up a fumbling, stuttering mess, with my face as red and hot as the lava I used to visualize in the street, and I’ll forget half of what I wanted to say or ask.

Like I said, it’s kind of dorky. But sometimes it pays off.

Yesterday I had to run some errands in town. It’s a ten-minute drive there, a ten-minute drive home, and, given that this is tourist season, a twenty minute search for a parking space. Driving time is great for imagining visualizing, and yesterday was no exception. While drove I had an Inner Space Interviews/talk about the awfully-titled Barton’s Women, and one of those great moments of clarity happened.

In the interview, I was talking about what the book was about—not a simple plot summary, but what it’s really about, the real theme of the work. As the words unspooled in my head, as imaginary me talked about a book the real, unagented, unpublished me hasn’t really finished yet, everything became crystal clear. Future me totally nailed it. Better still, the Inner Space Interview segued very naturally into a piece that I knew had to go in the manuscript itself. Good thing I was on my way home at the time. When I got home I ran straight to my desk, popped my headphones on, turned up the music and got down to writing.

It’s not like I didn’t know what Barton’s Women is about—I’ve known from very early on in the writing process, but I also know I was missing something, the ‘what’s it all about’ was not entirely there. I was circling around it like a mosquito coming in for a landing, and I had most of it, but I didn’t have all of it, and I think that’s part of what led to my desperate call for a WiP Whip. The manuscript grew bigger and bigger because I was trying to write myself into something, because I was searching for that one element that eluded me. Kind of funny that I found it through daydreaming (err, visualization), but maybe not: I’ve been making a revising run on Barton’s Women these last two weeks, which has engaged the planning/plotting/active thought part of my brain. Sometimes, the way to find something is to stop looking for it. My Inner Space Interview shifted me back into Discovery Mode, and I found what was missing. We’ll see what happens today when I try to reshape the sloppy mass of clay I threw out on paper yesterday, heh heh.

And now that creepy confession time is over, here’s a bit of fun from someone else with an active imagination, Rachel Bloom. An appropriate tune for a Friday, since she definitely mocks Rebecca Black’s Friday just a little bit. Oh, and if you’re familiar with some of Ms. Bloom’s other work, this one is mostly safe for work, family, children, etc. Visit her other songs at your own risk. Have a great weekend, all.

10 Responses

  1. That moment of clarity… glad you could see what your story was missing JeffO. There's no shame in visualizing, or having a moment of clarity while imagining. It's something I'm sure most writers do. I do it. Heck I talk to myself to help develop my story and characters if I so feel compelled, which, yes, often, I will admit, I do. It doesn't matter how you get there as long as you get there alive and with your manuscript looking healthy and ready to go. Best of luck JeffO 🙂

  2. Oh, how awesome that you had this come to you–and recognized it for what it was.

    When I was a kid, the street was shark infested water. lol

  3. That is totally not weird! I "visualize" stuff like that all the time, conversations and all. Really cool that you found your book's core meaning that way. The subconscious is quite smart 😀

  4. Yay! Go Future You! By the way, I totally do this daydreaming, I mean visualization ALL THE TIME. Seriously. All the time. I don't find it dorky or odd at all. Actually I think that's what makes great writers, the worlds in our minds are so rich and we don't hold ourselves back in our imaginings. Great post!

  5. Don't you love those moments of absolute clarity? They come when you least expect them. Mine, usually at night in my dreams. I'm still waiting for that roundup call myself. It feels close but I'm not pressing it. It'll come. Always does. Congrats Jeff!

  6. You said it well – "sometimes the way to find something is to stop looking for it". Sounds like your subconscious mind came through for you! Imagining/visualising is definitely worthwhile – it's hard to see the bigger picture when you're actually doing the nitty-gritty of writing.

  7. I don't believe in that visualizing thing anymore. I visualized optimistic outcomes for years and years. It never got me any closer to being published. As for imagining, I suppose I did that all the time when I was still writing fiction. Now that I'm only turning my real, rather mundane life into blog posts I do enjoy re-living the scenes I write about, trying to replay them with greater and greater accuracy (even though I know memory is far from accurate.) It can be fun.

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