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Writing Is Like Walking
Down a Dark Street

Natalia J. Garland

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Creative writing is risky, toilsome, and personal. It is a process of channeling thoughts into literary comprehension, and resourcing one's whole being to do this both naturally and intentionally. In other words, our knowledge and experience of life must be coordinated with grammatical skill and writing style. In an attempt to explain, describe, and model this process, let me offer three ways of looking at creative writing.

Writing Is Like Walking Down a Dark Street
It is midnight and the narrow streets are slick from a recent downpour of rain. There is still a slight drizzle, just enough to chill the air and force me to hunch my shoulders in self-protection. A gust of wind blows a crumpled manuscript across my path; the rat in the gutter laughs. What will happen next? Will a thug jump out from a corner and rob me? Will a friend drive by and offer me a ride home? Or will I continue walking alone down the murky street, using all my senses and instincts to guide me until I reach the end?

Writing means to become a voice in the silence, a light in the darkness, a reservoir in the deluge, a harvest in the drought. The writer is intensely interior in the formation of thoughts, yet socially generous with the resultant pages of self-expression. Any communication, however, is open to criticism (valid or cruel) and rejection (possibly censorship), as well as to affirmation and understanding. It takes determination and commitment to walk down that engrossing but perilous street of creativity--especially since the ending is never really known until it is reached.

Writing Is Like Restoring a Classic Car
My relationship with cars has always involved a tension of love and hate. On the one hand, I despise cars because of their pollution, because of reckless drivers and horrible accidents, and because of highways which tear ugly gashes into our good earth. On the other hand, I desire to possess the beauty of cars and the confidence of speed and power. Classic cars represent quality workmanship, horsepower, and luxury (depending on model and year). The restoration of rusted junk to pristine condition preserves history and the good memories of other eras. But restoring a car is dirty work. It requires mechanical expertise, finding or ordering the right parts and finishes, and hours of labor in the garage.

Revision of a story or poem also involves a tearing-down and rebuilding process. Even though I thrive on writing, sometimes I dread the labor of revising a difficult essay. Occasionally, my revised composition barely resembles the draft or outline. The idea or premise, however, is still there. Whether I make obvious corrections or extensive alterations--whether the car is restored to factory specifications or customized with a new motor--the craftsmanship is still there. The goal is that the project conclude with enlightenment. The final manifestation must be vital, having its own momentum, and with no expense withheld.

Writing Is Like Piecing a Scrap Quilt
Grandma may never have written a novel, but she knew what she was doing when she pieced odd scraps of fabric together to make a warm quilt. Grandma was resourceful. She dug deep into her basket of colors, shapes, and textures. She made everything fit together in a one-of-a-kind arrangement. Each scrap of fabric had meaning because it had been recycled from a dress or blouse, perhaps a flour sack, and then fashioned into a changed form with a new purpose. Grandma knew how to combine utility, decoration, and permanence for her family and future generations.

All of us who write--academically, professionally, creatively--must learn how to select and organize the components of language, content, and style. We must choose precise words, the length of sentences, and the sequence of paragraphs. We must decide the purpose of the topic, and the proportion of intellectual and emotional expression. The composition must withstand scrutiny no matter from which angle it is studied. There can be no poverty of ideas, no excuses for failure. The lines must cascade with conviction, with endless enjoyment, so that the message will be absorbed and used by the reader. Otherwise, the writer becomes extinct.

This concludes today's three vignettes. Of course, the end of one composition is a signpost to the beginning of another. Well, the middle of a composition can point to the beginning of another, too. Perhaps you will be inspired to create your own descriptions as an exercise in self-awareness: thinking, feeling, and writing. The End. (Written 07/09/07)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2007 Natalia J. Garland