All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.
Friday, December 14, 2018
Nobody’s Life Fits In Three-Hundred Pages
Anyone who knows me, knows that during the winter, my bad knee gets stiff and I drag one leg a little. That’s how I am, no apologies. What any author of my life story must decide is whether or not it is important to tell all the stories behind that habit: blowing out my knee playing football, the lack of proper care that allowed the injury to become a chronic problem, and how I am now fifty and what little cartilage I have left in my bad knee is just for decoration. Is all that important? Or would it be easier to just point out the dragging step as I walk and mention how it was the lingering effects from a cheap tackle back in school? The decision about how to write that will define the shape of the story.
Next, life isn’t just one story, so don’t try to put everything into one story. Rather, look at one critical turning point in that life, and start writing about everything that led up to that point. If someone’s greatest moment in life is their fiftieth wedding anniversary, then the stories about their first job, the neighbor’s oak tree getting hit by lightning, or that time they saw a dog in the alley eat a rat are not important. All that matters are the stories that contribute to that one magical day – stories that build up to it, strengthen it, or even threaten it. That’s the real story. Save the thing about a rat-eating dog for another discussion.
(The rat-eating dog was kind of true -- I couldn’t tell if the rat was eaten by a dog or just by a much-larger rat.)
Now, going back to the fiftieth-anniversary story, the choice of stories leading up to that point determines what the whole thing is about. If the supporting stories are all about the adversities that couple faced on their way to that day, that’s one thing. A different route would be with all the stories about why that marriage was so strong. How about all the stories of humor and mirth that made those fifty years just fly by? Stories about the family they made, the lives they led – these all create a different environment for the memoir about that fiftieth anniversary.
There is more to it than just the story choice. There is creating the place and setting, which will be discussed in the next post.
(and to a certain couple – happy Fiftieth and may the next fifty be even better!)