A Writing Surprise -- by Jane Kelley

Can writers ever be surprised by their own work? After all, every word that lands on the page comes from our minds. Unless you type with your eyes closed, or choose not to correct the computer's auto-correct. 

And yet, I long to be surprised by an image, an insight, or a rebellious character. Sometimes, on my best days, I am. When I'm not grinding prose out to reach an arbitrary word count. Or falling into old hackneyed habits. Or sticking to that outline no matter what goddammit. 

Surprises can be blocked. But can that magic be encouraged? Maybe. If I try not to work so hard. If I feel confident enough to loosen the reins a little bit and look around. If I have kept a corner of myself wild. I haven't spread poison on the lawn just to keep it perfect. 

Then, into that yard I know all too well, might come a bird. 

Be quiet when it arrives. Be careful reaching for your camera. Just see what the owl does, not what you want it to do. 

Listen. The owl is very silent. Nearby the wrens are frantically warning. Stay away from our nest. (I hadn't even known there were babies in that old bird house!) The owl did. The owl also knew it was time for little ones to fly off into the world, even though that meant leaving the safety of the nest. 

This wasn't a happy surprise for the wrens or for the owl. It flew away hungry, though I did my best not to get too close. 

But what a happy surprise for this writer. That something unexpected, and not completely out of the realm of possibility, could come into the yard. 

Shhh. Can you hear the baby turkeys peeping to let their mother know they are here?


  1. Oh yes -- they are definitely looking back at me too.

  2. This is such a perfect description--be quiet, and the ideas will find their way to you...


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