A Pattern For Writers? (Safety note: No spiders included)


The web, then, or the pattern: a web at once sensuous and logical, an elegant and pregnant texture: that is style, that is for the foundation of the art of literature.

So wrote Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) in The Art of WritingYou can download the full text in various formats at this link.

Anyway I’ve taken the liberty of adding a visual aid to go with the quote so we writers can be absolutely clear about what we are supposed to be aiming for.

Actually for me this image says more about the snaggled webs that are my thought processes – all sorts of knotty, misshapen bits, unwanted intrusions, and many dropped stitches. Oh yes, and also fog-bound. And if you look at the photo with X-ray eyes you will just make out a more finely woven web overlapping the larger web – their centres more or less aligned in the upper third of the image.  I’m good at doing that too – getting two separate works mixed up with each other so they are impossible to pull apart. So today, you can tell, the writing has not been going well – all hitched up and back-to-front, and too many projects stitched in one.

But as I said – it’s something to aim for – this sensuous, logical web. And the ‘do-over’ is ever an option. Time to unravel the messy bits then, re-string the loom and get weaving. And to all fellow writers out there – may your threads remain untangled and the elegant and pregnant texture be with you.

P.S. I always find myself fascinated by the fact that Robert Louis Stevenson was a rebel writer, broken away (in the face of domineering paternal ambition) from a dynasty of obsessive compulsive, but oh so intrepid, and brilliant lighthouse builders. I feel this may tell us something important about his work.


This web is also for Jude at The Earth Laughs In Flowers because she says she likes webs. She is looking for macro and close-up garden photos this month.

25 thoughts on “A Pattern For Writers? (Safety note: No spiders included)

  1. I relish your posts about writing, especially when you clothe them in an extended metaphor (is that what it is?) I’ve downloaded RLS for later pleasure. Thanks and good luck unweaving tangled webs, if that’s what needs doing.

    1. I’m so pleased you like these little pieces. I’ve come to the conclusion that you can write far too much about the process of writing. I think short, sharp insights are often far more useful – both to self and others. Having said that, I’ve been meaning to settle down with RLS myself, and read what he has to say with greater attention. He’s been on my desktop for ages.

    1. I agree. I still remember the excitement of my young teen self when reading Treasure Island and Kidnapped. A writer who opened up great vistas for readers. And gripping adventures too.

  2. I love the way you used your photo to make your writing point, Tish. I also enjoyed the color behind the web. Where I walk, the webs usually only have space or green behind them, but the dew or rain always brings them to view and they’re irresistible to me.


    1. Web watching is fascinating, isn’t it. There are so many construction formats too. And the silk is SO-OOO strong apparently – used in wound healing if I remember rightly.

  3. Your post is highly apropos. Last night I was re-reading my magnum opus last night and just shaking my head at the snarled mess I’d created. I believe a blow torch might be more appropriate than a scalpel. It’s like tangled Christmas lights, at some point, it is easier to throw them out than it is to untangle them and figure out which bulb is defective.

    1. Oh dear. I know the feeling. And sometimes the best and bravest thing to do is to start afresh.But before doing that, one approach I’ve never quite tried but think might help, is to write – freeflow, brainstorming style – a sort of extended essay synopsis – pinning everything out using first thoughts only. People who do this might write 10-15,000 words. You hopefully end up with a new, intuitively derived framework that overcomes the glitches. Otherwise, good luck with blow torch/scalpel/screw driver/very big hammer 🙂

  4. I will leave the writing to you and Meg as you both have a way with words which leaves me speechless. But I’ll happily accept the layered webs amidst the cherry-red fruits of cherries? Or crab apples? Whatever they are this is a beautiful image and very much suited to your current thought processes.

  5. Hmm … I can’t help but think that the title of today’s post may, in some way, be directed to me. I know. Vanity!
    Regardless, Tish, it is a great photo, made more so knowing that there will be no spiders in your webs. 😉

  6. Those are some pearly dew-dropped threads there, Tish — thanks for that. It had me stuck long enough I feel you drank away some of my life-juices, but in a good way. Maybe it was the other way around. Or maybe this is bad and I need to drop the stitch and fly on…

  7. I love your writing Tish it’s really inspiring and rich with metaphor. I love the spider’s web metaphor as that encapsulates what happens sometimes with my thought processes. You have such clarity and beauty when writing that it’s probably seldom you fall into the web.

      1. Tish I love your gardening posts they are also really inspiring and make me want to get out in the garden too. 🙂

      2. That’s so lovely to hear. I think there’s actually quite a bit of research that has shown the microbes and whatnot given off by the soil are actually anti-depressant, so there’s good reason to get out there for more reasons that several 🙂

      3. I agree there is something in that. Also there is Petrichor – the smell of the dirt after the rain, its all about the petrichor 🙂 ❤

  8. “The neighbour hollows dry or wet,
    Spring shall with tender flowers beset;
    And oft the morning muser see
    Larks rising from the broomy lea,
    And every fairy wheel and thread
    Of cobweb dew-bediamonded.”

    From “The House Beautiful” by Robert Louis Stevenson

    An inspiring post and wonderful photo, Tish, thank you.

  9. RLS’s poem expresses how a deep appreciation of nature can change the image of an empty glass into the glorious view of a vessel brimming over with the juice of life. So you and RLS obviously have a lot in common. Believe it. What better way to dissolve the barriers created by writer’s block?

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