The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible - Vladimir Nabokov

There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you - Zora Neale Hurston

12 November 2009


I was chatting with my boss's PA the other day, and she wondered how we scientists keep motivated through failed experiments and frustrations. What drives us? I had to say curiosity. Just as a child will ask why until your brain explodes, a scientist asks a never ending series of whys and hows. It occurred to me that this is just as true for writers.

Some of these questions pertain to the real world, like how does a nuclear reactor work so I can have my main character stop the bad guys from blowing it up? Though, my question today was how do they get those thin orange tubes in place to switch a two lane road into a three lane to accommodate heavy morning traffic? Does someone put them there? Do they pop up automatically? I may have a character who works on the road crew someday, who knows. (by the way, I haven't figured it out yet and it's driving me crazy)

Other questions a writer can ask are what if and what's the motivation. What if that road crew guy decided to mess with those lane markings late one stormy night and cause a massive traffic accident? Why would he do that? Is he a terrorist, a disgruntled divorcee, what?

My favorite question is, what will you do when I do this! I love putting my characters into a new situation and watching what unfolds. They surprise me alot, and that's the best feeling. This bizarre 'channeling' phenomenon is an entirely different topic that I won't go into here, but I think it's akin to having a bunch of imaginary friends.

As with a two year old, in science the predominant question is why. Why do we age? Why do we get cancer? More often, it's why didn't that experiment work? Some times there are no answers, at least not with the current techniques and technologies available. So, most of the time I prefer to ask when can I find some time to write?

Art and science are perfect soul mates. That must be the reason I married an artist. [see curious cat painting above and insert shameless plug for husband's website]


  1. Nice website! Very interesting art.

    And you're so right about the similarities between art and science. Writers are always experimenting with outcomes!

    Nice post.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Art - I was particularly drawn to Shadow and Road Less Traveled. The eyes on Shadow would keep me standing there for a while. I will have to add your husband to my art wish list! Thanks for the link.

    As for curiosity, it is such a major part of any artist's work, writing, painting, even science to some is seen as art. There is certainly beauty to the way the things come together - not that beauty is the marking of art!

    I came to your blog out of curiosity, thru your comment on Elizabeth's blog. A writer without curiosity would have a very empty book, I'd imagine.

    Glad to have found you, and your husband's art.

  3. Thanks Elizabeth!

    And Michele, thanks for following!
    Shadow is one of my favorites too. My husband is currently basking in the praise, so you've made him happy today. I like your comment that there's 'beauty in the way things come together'. It seems curiosity is never satisfied until things make sense and fit as a whole. Only when the rough edges are worn down by enough questions and answers do you have a finished piece, be it artwork or manuscript.

  4. I was at the Philadelphia Museum of Art last weekend, at an exhibit of Arshile Gorky, and it seems he saw art as never finished. There are certain pieces (The Artist and His Mother specifically) that he really never finished. But on the whole, he felt he couldn't say a piece was finished. He felt he just put it down for a while. I suppose an artist, and I include writers in this as well, feel this way as well. We must know when to step away. But we could always go back and finish, repaint, rewrite.


  5. I'd heard that before too. I didn't know Gorky said it. You're right, you could go back and rewrite forever. It's a matter of stopping before you lose your sanity I think.