Ask Lee

I’ve been doing this blog for several years, and from time to time I get the feeling that I’m repeating myself. When that happens, I know it’s time for me to ask you what you want to know. Please send me your questions. I’ll try to get to them in the weeks to come. If I don’t have a good answer, I’ll ask for help and then rely on the community of writers to give me assistance. Our work is so solitary, we can forget that others are struggling with the same challenges. Consider this an invitation, then, to let me know what challenges you’re facing in your writing. Together, we’ll try to figure out a way to surmount those challenges.

In the meantime, here’s something that’s been happening lately. As some of you may know, my wife Cathy had knee surgery almost two weeks ago. It was a revision of a full-knee replacement that she had in 2018. The surgeon had to replace the poly pad that rests between the two metal parts of the artificial knee. The first pad proved to be too thin, and the surgeon had to insert a thicker one. He also cleaned out a good deal of problematic scar tissue. Cathy’s rehab is going well. A few days ago, her quad muscle started firing, and now she’s able to lift her leg without help. She’s walking with the aid of a walker, but I fully expect her to be released to a cane this week. Of course, I’m always thinking from the perspective of a writer, so I see a lesson for us in the process Cathy has had to go through. Sometimes we have to adjust something we thought would, and sometimes we have to cut something out in order for things to work better. Such cutting is painful but necessary.

I also think about the courage it takes to give oneself over to any surgical procedure. After all, we never know with any degree of certainty what the result will be. The rehab process also takes a measure of grit and determination. It’s painful to do the exercises. When Cathy began hers, she couldn’t lift her leg without my help. Little by little, though, her strength is returning. We writers take a similar leap of faith when we face the blank page. We never know for sure what the result will be, but we forge ahead. I’ve written so many words over the years that have never seen publication. I know all those words were necessary for me to write the ones that made their way to readers. Our writers’ journeys are often painful ones due to disappointment and rejection, but that pain is evidence of the journey itself. We writers should wear our scars proudly. Those scars are proof of all we had to go through to get to where we are today.

Survive and thrive—that’s my motto. Keep working. Accept the pain that’s necessary for your improvement. Don’t be afraid to rely on those around you for support and guidance. This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week. I think of all the teachers who helped me along my journey, and how I’ve always tried to do the same for others. Let me know what you’d like to talk about. I’ll tell you what I know and what I don’t know. Together, we’ll work toward an answer, or at least a deepening of the question.





  1. Lindsay on May 15, 2023 at 9:44 am

    My question: How do you evaluate the shape a story needs or is calling for (meaning form) and to what extent do you use form to bend content and content to dictate form?

    • Lee Martin on May 30, 2023 at 12:02 pm

      Lindsay, for some reason my website stopped notifying me when someone comments, so I’m just now seeing this. I’ll do my best to respond in a future blog post.

  2. Gail on May 24, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    In general, I’m not a fan of epilogues because they seem like a device used to tie up every loose end, and I like a book that leaves me something to think about. But I wrote an epilogue, which at first, felt very powerful but didn’t say everything I wanted to say. As I kept revising it, it felt more complete, but seemed to lose its power.
    I’m not even sure what my question is, but I think it’s twofold: when it comes to loose ends, what is considered an acceptable loose end, and what needs to be tied up? And secondly, how do you find that balance between ‘killing it!’ and overkill?
    (And the third part of my twofold question: any thoughts, advice on epilogues?)

    • Lee Martin on May 30, 2023 at 12:01 pm

      Gail, for some reason my web site has stopped notifying me when people comment, so I’m just now seeing this. My apologies. I’ll do my best to address your questions in a future blog post.

  3. Angela on July 7, 2023 at 1:46 am

    How do you think Covid-19 has influenced writing? Do the stories you see from students and workshop participants deal with the years of living in fear and losing people to the virus? Maybe people are tired of thinking about it and tell uplifting stories.

    • Lee Martin on July 9, 2023 at 2:42 pm

      Dear Angela. Thank you so much for this question. Look for my response in tomorrow’s blog post.

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