All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Writing Tools: The Gauge

Gauge: noun, (gāj), Any instrument for ascertaining or regulating the level, state, dimensions or forms of things

The most common writing tool for me is the writer's gauge. Before I commit one word to my keyboard, I whip out this bad boy and determine just where things are going to go. Sometimes people jump into the writing process without first using their gauge, and that's okay. It's also a great way to set yourself up for a lot of rewrites, but that's another story. For now, let's think about what this fine little tool can do for us as writers.

Let's say I have an idea. I don't know the story yet, maybe I don't even have a clean grasp of how I want to present it. Perhaps it's just a scene in my head and I want to flesh it out somehow. Let's say it's a memory of talking with my mother in our family room when I was four. At this point, I bring out the gauge and let it do its thing.

The best thing the gauge can do is help me figure out what I have and what I want to turn it into. I use this fine tool by measuring out the details not just of this isolated, distant memory, but why a part of me suddenly wants to commit this to the page. I proceed to assess the different dimensions and measure everything about this one kernel of an idea:

  • Why is this moment important?
  • Is this about the memory or the situation?
  • What stands out in this memory? Scenery? Context? Feelings?
  • What do I want to tell the reader?
  • How should the reader feel at the end?

At the very least, measuring out these parts should give me an idea of where I should start. Gauging these different metrics should help me focus my story into something more than just recalling a memory. By the time I answer those questions, I should have a narrative in mind. 

Once I go through that list, here's what I have: That little chat when I was four was important because it's the earliest surviving memory I have of interacting with my mother. This is an interesting situation because my mother first got me curious about writing, even at such a young age. The feelings of that moment are bittersweet, because now that I am a writer, my mother is in a condition where she can no longer appreciate the things I write. This makes me want to tell the reader to savor those little, seemingly meaningless moments in the family room, because someday that is all you will have left of that person. Hopefully, the reader will feel motivated to be a little more open to the world after reading my piece. Now I have something to work on, and what set it up was my powerful writing tool - the writer's gauge.

Now I just need to write the damn thing, and dig deeper into the toolbox...       

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