Are you an eeker or a gusher? Do you have to go back and enlarge what you have first written or do you delete and tighten things up?
I love that distinction eeker vs. gusher! I am definitely an eeker. I work slowly and I attempt to work steadily. I try to write a certain number of pages every single day. But I rarely sit down and have any idea of what I'm going to do next. I feel like I'm always in a dark tunnel pawing my way forward, tripping, bashing my head it ain't pretty!
Do you have your stories figured out before you put pen to paper or do you let them work themselves out as you go along?
I never have stories worked out. I usually begin with a shred of a notion, some particular situation that interests me or a relationship that feels potent. My starting points are never concrete. It feels more as if I'm circling something, getting closer and closer each time I circle until I've focused the idea to a point where it feels like it's giving back to me (and hopefully the reader) some notion of what brought me to it. I feel pretty strongly that it is better for me never to know where I'm heading. If I know, then the work becomes burdened by the knowing, by the expectation of what it's supposed to be about. I think the surprises diminish and therefore the story never becomes airborne, never rises above a kind of plodding plain. If I don't know where I'm heading, the possibility exists for surprise and for that strange alchemy that makes something unexpected totally necessary.
When asked what he did to help himself get started on a story, Hemingway replied, " All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know."
Oh, boy. I don't know if there's any true sentence. I think truth is a really mutable thing. And one person's truth does not hold for another, and might not even hold for that person at another time. So, I guess I'm less interested in truth than in accuracy, emotionally accuracy.
Images: Left: Marisa Silver;
Right: BJ Hegedus
This article was originally published in June 2010, and has been updated for the
April 2011 paperback release.
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