The real power-players today aren’t those who hold the big, external positions of leadership. They are the people who are calm, creative, able to step away from events, see them clearly, imagine new ways to frame them, and launch fearlessly back into that good work.
When we see something anew, we come to respect it. Each new perspective, each layer of understanding, deepens our regard. Seen in this light, revision is the most respectful approach to our writing—and to much else in our days.
All creative work is becoming; it is more alive or less alive, and our job as artists is to nurture life.
As writers break apart single stories on the page, they also exercise this muscle of multiplicity, strengthening their capacity to withhold judgment and embrace paradox and remain open to new layers of understanding.
I’ve known many miracles, a few even supernatural and profoundly transformative. As ordinary and as human as they seem, today I want to proclaim the holy miracle of corrective lenses.
Every story has a hidden life—a soul, if you will. How writers tend this soul significantly affects our work and our well-being. This tending is really active listening. It’s both willful, sprung from the self, and responsive, heeding that life-force beyond the story and its readership.
The funny thing is that, wrong as we are, we do belong here, and wrong as our work may be, it belongs as well. Everything is cracked, and everything is beautiful.
Revision insists that we reject the single story in favor of layered, complex, and contradictory stories. Just as intimacy and awareness break down our stereotypes, intimacy with and awareness of our material break apart our over-simplifications and half-truths.
I’m increasingly convinced that what makes writing (both the process and the product) valuable is its service to the story. Nothing else satisfies in the end—not success, not recognition, not extraordinary craft accomplishments, certainly not money.
The other evening I taught a lesson at the Loft that was meant to help beginning memoirists distinguish between the character and the narrator in their stories. We create personas for ourselves on the page; the main character in every memoir is the younger self who experiences and is changed by events; we can also …