Friday, November 21, 2014

Writing: A Service Industry

This week was our last Creative Nonfiction class with Heather. The next time we meet, on Dec 3rd, we will be celebrating the birth of our new chapbooks! Aho!

The secret swamp across the street from my house
We are all sad to see this semester come to an end. I'm still in denial about it. Heather took the chance to repeat some wise things she had told us towards the beginning of the semester and I felt like I was hearing them with new ears. In a way, I am a different person than the one who started this program back in August. In any case, you can definitely say I've been reborn as a writer...

First of all, Heather reminded us that it's not about the writing. We're all good writers; that's why we're in this program. We could sit down and write beautiful prose all day long. That's not enough.

It's about the story. 

As writers, we work in service of story. We bow down to it. Everything we write must serve the greater story. If it does not move the story forward in some way, it's irrelevant and needs to come out. Even if it's the most beautiful sentence in the world. Especially if it's the most beautiful sentence in the world. (As Faulkner said, kill your darlings.)

Of course, it's not that easy. A story is never just what you think it is on the surface. A girl wants a horse. That's just the superficial set-up. But what we as writers need to figure out is - what is the deeper yearning happening underneath this piece? What does this little girl really want? Does she wish she was free from the abuse she experiences at home? It's always about something more. And it's our job to find that thing and bring it to the page.

"Writing is a service industry," Heather likes to say. "Our readers are our customers, and we have to give them what they want."

And what do they want? A good story.

It's just that easy, right?


Another gold nugget  that Heather passed on to us on our last day of class was this one -

The story will always be smarter than you. 

If you come up against a trouble spot or a snag in the writing, refrain from getting angry. Aggression will not get you through this. Instead, be open. Meditate on it. Listen to the piece. It will guide you to the truth.

The slowest way is the fastest way, my friends.

These flowers will soon be tomatoes!
Garden going strong