Writing Like Rocks, Writing Like Water

I used to think that my story or poem was like a rock; once I wrote it, it was fixed and permanent. I was resistant to comments. If someone said, "I'm not sure I understand this part," I would shrug. Well, that's how I saw it. I didn't see how it could be any other way.

But somewhere along this creative path, I took a detour. To my astonishment, I discovered that writing was more like water; it could twist and turn, flow in any number of directions. Just because I had imagined one ending didn't mean that it was the only possible one. Suddenly, a story could have hundreds of endings, travel in multiple directions. (An overwhelming thought if you think too hard about it.) The  creative snow melts, and I have to choose which way to channel it.

Sometimes someone says, "This is what really happened, so that's how I'm going to write it." One choice is to try to report an event as accurately as possible, like the phrase before the signature at the bottom of the tax form, "…to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true, correct…." We do our best. Humor, word choices, sequence of events, style, and the sounds of the sentences are some of the tools the nonfiction writer (and any writer) has. 

Another choice is to abandon our desire to report and to decide to write fiction instead; we can shape the story further and reroute the creative streams. The risk here is that we still have to make it believable. The gain is that we can add imaginary conversations or change some details to make the story more interesting, maybe even deepen the meaning. We can still get to the heart of the story and to the depth of the emotions. The main issue, then, is to be honest in how we label it. Even though it is now fiction, who can say that the experience for the reader is not emotionally true?

Accepting the idea that writing can flow here or there can also free the writer to accepting constructive criticism. As long as the comments are offered by someone who cares, the writer can continue to grow.


I agree. Like your picture and your blog.
Anonymous said…
I love your blog. Two thoughts:

(1)The last line of this post gave me pause: "As long as the comments are offered by someone who cares, the writer can continue to grow."
In my experience, caring isn't enough to ensure comments are constructive. What's needed on the part of the commenter are emotional intelligence, a willingness to be vulnerable themselves, and skill at communicating. "Caring" can be a mine field populated by folks whose lack of self awareness has them offering comments (solicited and often unsolicited) that at best do as much harm as good. Wise is the creative person who choses deliberately how permeable they are to input from other mortals (while always always listening to the muse) throughout their creative process.

Alisa, what are your thoughts on the timing of input? Are there distinct parts of your creative process during which you deliberately are/aren't open to comments?

(2) Thanks for the powerful visual image evoke by your words: "...writing was more like water... a story could have hundreds of endings, travel in multiple directions... the creative snow melts, and I have to chose which way to channel it..."!!