Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Words of Wisdom

One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Berg, just posted this on her Facebook page.  It embodies so much about how I feel about writing.  Brilliantly and beautifully stated:

So much of writing is done when you're not writing. It's a hard thing to explain to someone who isn't a writer. But today, for example, when I was walking the dog, I imagined a scene I'll write later. It's January, 1831, and a carriage is pulling away from a country house in the heart of France. A light snow is falling. The woman inside the carriage stares resolutely straight ahead and her husband stands in the circular driveway, his hands at his side, watching her go. 

Doing the dishes, I envision a mole at the corner of someone's mouth, the angle of a kitchen chair at a table, the way the light falls on a bowl of apples. When I'm supposed to be listening to someone in real life, an imaginary conversation often tangles itself in with what they're telling me. I am, as a result, kind of a terrible listener. (But I will always give my guest the bigger piece of pie.)

Whenever I do interviews-- as I did yesterday in advance of the Santa Barbara Writers' conference--and someone asks about my writing process, I find it difficult to answer. It's not a process; it's how you are. I truly do believe that writers are born, not made. If you're a writer, you're a person with a habit of noticing, of being totally captivated by events as small as the sideways drift of falling leaves, by the guy who tosses pizza dough up into the air, by the woman in a kerchief waiting for a bus. You have a need to translate what moves you or angers you or inspires you or mystifies you, into words. You use what you write to explain the world to yourself. Writing happens at the keyboard or on the page, yes. So often, though, it also happens when you're pulling weeds or watching the slow flap of a new butterfly's wings or tossing cheese into your grocery cart or taking a shower. If you're a writer, you sort of never stop working. You always have your invisible basket on your arm, gathering, gathering gathering....

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