When I talk about writing, it always seems to come around to how everything contributes to the writing process.
Everything we see: writing calls upon an inner artist to take note of light and shadow, subtleties of hue and texture, details of dress, expression, physiognomy. And it calls on an inner theatrical director who notes significance in gestures, unspoken glances and manners.
Everything we hear: writing calls on the inner musician for the cadences of speech, the tones that strike the heart or convey what words belie, the tempo of events, the sound track that evokes the passion of the actors in events.
Every thing we encounter and use in the world enriches the writer’s work with an understanding of the roles played by the objects in our daily lives, and of the work, crafts and sciences that combine to create them.
The more we know about the world, its history, the workings of our communities and societies and our place among other species and the cosmos, the more we can bring to our stories, the better founded they are. Though the nature of a story determines what fits – and imagination is, as the great Albert Einstein said, more important than knowledge.
The characters in our stories can echo and reflect but never completely capture the character of people we meet and care for in our lives. Not that I’d really want to draw too true a character sketch of anyone I know – characters in stories can be bigger than life. They can be simpler than real life ever is – more comprehensible.
Real people tend to try to simplify themselves to put limits on their potential, to fit themselves into predefined slots, but the reality is bigger than that, broader and deeper, and our stories are only the better for recognizing that as well.
We can know no one as well as we can know ourselves – and if you’re at all like me, that job is never complete. In writing, I’m continually surprising myself with what I didn’t know I knew, or felt or understood. Writing is an act of discovery even more than an exercise of knowledge and experience. Let us go forth and explore the undiscovered countries of our stories!