Singing into the Hairbrush and #ROW80

When I first started writing, I knew what I was doing. I had read many, many books. I knew what I liked and didn’t like. I was sure that I could turn out a great book…first try. (Stop laughing.)

Most writers get a little ways into their craft and have either an AHA! moment or a slowly-building suspicion that they don’t really know what they’re doing. Maybe there is something to this story structure thing. Maybe I should learn the mythical archetypes. Maybe sentence structure, rhetorical devices, grammar and punctuation, and cadence are things should garner my attention.

I got there. I started reading craft books: Save the Cat by Blake Snyder; Story Engineering by Larry Brooks; On Writing by Stephen King; Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell; The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler; The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer; Wired for Story by Lisa Cron; Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King; and more.

Now that I’m cranium-deep in novel rewrites, I’m trying to remember everything. EVERYTHING. All the vast body of knowledge I have gained from craft books in the last two years. All of the tricks and tips and truisms from the masters.

I took a breath this last week and reminded myself that I can write, that I love to write.

It’s like singing into your hairbrush when you’re young. You sing with abandon, imagine that you are the next Streisand or Adele, and think you’re pretty darn good. Then you get older and take voice lessons. Your teacher exposes you to the great singers and what they do; points out all of your weaknesses and mistakes; and forces you to sing beyond your current capability. You crumble with the realization that you are not Streisand or Adele; you have such a long way to go that Carnegie Hall might as well be on Pluto.

Some people quit. They either get too discouraged or really didn’t want it as much as they want something else. Some people ignore the masters and swear they can sing (you’ve seen ’em on American Idol, right?). Smart people get to work.


If only writing were like
singing into a hairbrush.

But you should never lose that sense of singing into the hairbrush–that feeling that music is something from deep inside that lifts you up and gives you joy, even if does require using your diaphragm correctly, projecting, hitting the pitch just right, managing volume, etc. In fact, when you get to the point that you have absorbed your learning such that it becomes natural, you enjoy it even more. Not only do you think you’re good at it, you are good at it.

What I’ve learned about writing needs to become part of my repertoire, but I don’t need to sweat over it. When I write, I still want to be singing into the hairbrush.

ROW80 Update

Editing: SHARING HUNTER, young adult contemporary novel.

  • Complete full rewrite. Revamped a few more chapters, and re-plotting some sections to up the stakes and to provide more conflict and more distinct character voice.
  • Revise using Margie Lawson’s Deep EDITS system. Made rhetorical device note cards for reference.
  • Deliver to beta readers. Emailed first two chapters to a beta reader for feedback on POV.



  • Write two short stories. Revised another chapter of one story and fleshed out a little more on another.



Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week. Got out my Wii Zumba on Tuesday and started going. Three songs in, I stepped out on a basic aerobics move, felt a pop, and dropped to the ground like that cliché sack of potatoes. I must have planted my foot wrong; pulled my calf muscle. Have to stay off the leg for a week. Ugh.
  • Sort through photos and complete at least one album. (I stopped scrapbooking five years ago, and it’s piled up into a big mess. Moving into digital albums.) Sorting through house, then photos. Getting there.

How’s your “hairbrush singing” going? Do you need some encouragement for your goals? Feeling overloaded?

Share your woes and enthusiasm below and then with your fellow ROWers! Find them HERE.

26 thoughts on “Singing into the Hairbrush and #ROW80

  1. Awesome post, Julie.
    When I first started writing, I was sure I would hit jackpot with my first ms too. Ha, love that story, but the writing … jeez! Maybe I’ll re-write it someday 😉
    Awesome progress! And sorry about your foot! Hope you feel better soon!
    Have a great week!

  2. Wow, you’ve been busy, my friend! You are so right about not losing your enthusiasm and abandon. It’s a tightrope walk, for sure. There have been plenty of times with book #2 where I got frozen and overwhelmed with trying to keep track of all the advice and expertise out there – some of it conflicting, I might add – and then the sparkle is lost for a while. What I do is plan out the novel with the masters in mind (character arc, portals, acts, and so on), then write the first draft like I’m “singing into the hairbrush,” then edit/rewrite with the masters in mind again.

    Fab post, Julie. Keep up the great work!

  3. Since I always wanted to be a guitarist, I air-guitar on my steering wheel while stopped at red lights. 😀 You are kicking it with the goals – keep up the good work! And keep singing into the hairbrush!

  4. Your timing is perfect, Julie. I so needed to read about the hair brush, that’s totally where I need to go right now. Thank You. How’s your calf doing, hope it’s not too painful.
    You had a great week, Julie, hope this week brings you another.

    1. Isn’t the editing stage just brutal at times?! I pulled a calf muscle AND a brain muscle last week! LOL. Best wishes for a great week of productivity to you, S.J.!

  5. all the advice can be confusing I think the trick is to sing to that hairbrush all the time when writing the draft – have the story sing, out of tune if necessary but with the childlike certainty of the magic and then when it’s there edit with the advice

    1. I’m re-writing more than editing right now, and I think I’ve been letting too much internal editor out at this stage. You’re right about letting your story sing–“out of tune if necessary”–as you write. Thanks, Alberta!

  6. I am just so grateful I’ve met this writing community and started blotting because it’s a wealth of knowledge and support! Great inspirational post Julie! I’m lucky we got to be roommates at DFW. 😀

  7. Love this post, Julie! I’d never thought to compare singing to writing, but you’re on target. We’ve read all the same craft books. 🙂 I still love my first ms, but am taking a nice long break from it before I return to it with fresh eyes to finish those final edits. I got bogged down with the second ms, and hear what you’re saying about trying to keep everything in mind as you write. It’s overload, alright!

    The best thing that could have happened to me (I think!) was a completely different seed idea taking over and drawing me into the excitement of writing again. I’m less than 500 words from the halfway point of this story, and I’m loving it all. Since it’s a novella, I should be able to wrap it up in a month or so. Then I’ll go back to ms #1 and #2 and see if what “singing into the hairbrush” I can bring to them.

    I’m so sorry about your calf. Ouch! I can appreciate your frustration. We have to work into exercise so carefully as we get *ahem* a little older. Hang in there. You’re writing goals and all ROCK!! Keep up the wonderful progress. Like Jess, I’m very grateful for this writing community. 🙂

    1. I like your thought of letting a different idea spark your writing pleasure. I was trying so hard to concentrate on one WIP at a time, but I’m now trying to do more short story writing while working on edits. It might be a nice balance and give me perspective. Thanks so much, Jolyse!

  8. What a great reminder to enjoy what you do! I love this! I hope your calf feels better soon so you can get back to Zumba-ing (is that a word?). Have a great week. 🙂

    1. My calf would be better if I hadn’t gone furniture shopping all day on Saturday, but that’s another story… Thanks, Diana! I’m doing fine and eager to get crackin’ this week! Have a marvelous week yourself.

  9. I am not devoid of compassion. Thus for safety sake I only sing when I am certain that there are no other humans within 1000 M. My singing career ended when I was singing to my oldest son when he was not yet two years old. He covered his ears and made an anguished face and said “Papa please no more singing. It hurts my ears too much.” Thus ended my singing career.

    That is one scary looking hair brush. Please don’t hit anyone with it. To my way of thinking writing should be a non-violent activity.

    1. Believe it or not, Holmes, I had four hairbrushes in my drawer from which to choose. Apparently, I’m hoarding hairbrushes like some people hoard guns and ammo. Good thing to know they can double as weaponry.

      As a side note, if my kids don’t behave, sometimes I sing opera until they do. 😉 It’s quite the motivator.

  10. This is so true. I think it’s often that we get so obsessed with trying to learn It All that we lose sight of why we like doing it in the first place! Nice hairbrush shot!

  11. Write with abandon Julie 🙂 If you write with that same fervor and joy, it’ll come through in your writing. Besides, you can always apply all those tips and tricks during the edit process.

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