Alone With All That Could Happen is a collection of 7 craft essays by writer David Jauss. I had read some of them when they were first published in AWP’s The Writer’s Chronicle, but it was time to read them again. I should probably schedule time to reread craft essays because I can’t ever get it all. Or, because I’m writing in third person this time, something else falls into place that I didn’t notice when I was working on first person…
Here are a few of the words from this book that have made a difference in my writing:
…imagining the other is ultimately a way of discovering the self.
“From Long Shots to X-Rays: Distance and Point of View in Fiction”
Perhaps the most important purpose of point of view is to manipulate the degree of distance between the characters and the reader…
“What We Talk About When We Talk About Flow”
Thus, altering our syntax…allows us to get our thoughts off the normal track on which they run…so if we change the way we think, we can sometimes change what we think.
“Remembrance of Things Present: Present Tense in Contemporary Fiction”
We use the generalized present to talk about an act that is repeated throughout time, as in the sentence “I write every morning.” The tense is present, but the events described are not. Hence they are unmoored from their actual places in time.
“Some Epiphanies About Epiphanies”
…the best epiphanies approach their revelations indirectly, through imagery, metaphor, and symbol rather than through direct statement. In short, they arrive with some elusiveness, like insight itself.
“Stacking Stories: Building a Unified Short Story Collection”
Because our choices of words, characters, and plots arise from our own obsessive concerns and themes, from our own individual selves, it is inevitable that there be unifying relationships between the stories. But we must discover them and then, to heighten their effects, strategically add connecting details, parallels, contrasts, repetitions…
And finally, this excerpt from the last essay in the collection, possibly my favorite because it’s about process and it’s a way of thinking about writing that had never occurred to me before, “Lever of Transcendence: Contradiction and The Physics of Creativity.”
My students don’t hesitate when I ask them to write their actual names, but they do when I ask them to make up fictitious ones. The creative process, I tell them, resides in that hesitation, that moment of uncertainty.
Oh, I like that last one too. That hesitation.
It occurred to me to question the relation of hesitation of the mind to hesitation of the soul in writing. I think the mind hesitates least, probably less so with practice, but the hesitation of the soul occurs when we take our writing deeper, when we polish to reveal its beauty.
Linda, I’m not sure if I agree that the mind hesitates less with practice or that we want it to. The hesitation comes from the many possibilities and that’s what we’re seeing in that moment. And when I think about what happens when I take my writing deeper, there doesn’t seem to be any hesitation there.
Interesting. It seems we hesitate at different stages, but is that so?
I believe I write backwards. When a story comes to me, I make notes, and plans, and sketches without much hesitation, but I don’t write the story. I live with it for days, weeks, months, considering the possibilities. So when I finally type out the words, it’s with less hesitation because I’ve already “polished” in a sense.
That’s not to say I don’t need to clean it up a bit, but I rarely find a need to truly revise. Then again, what do I know? 🙂
I appreciate your post and this exchange of ideas.
I don’t think you write backwards because that would mean there was a forwards : )
I enjoyed hearing about your process and I’ve heard other writers recount a similar one. It seems you almost live in a world of hesitation during that incubation period, and I believe that’s the creative process David Jauss is writing about.
You mean, that made sense?! 🙂
Actually, I have a terrific headache today and probably shouldn’t be writing anything … including blog comments.
I’m always curious about the creative process. It fascinates me.
ladies – this was so interesting. I found myself saying uh-huh the whole way through.
“it seems you almost live in a world of hesitation during that incubation period”
and thanks, Cynthia for this great post.
Does he mention that the hesitation process is agony. And to move beyond it is ecstasy. It is for me anyway. And I seem to spend much more time in agony than ecstasy. 🙂
Darrelyn : ) He actually writes about how important it is to find a way to move through and beyond the hesitation or “we risk being paralyzed by the very uncertainty that makes creativity possible.”