A great story, then, is not about providing information, though it can certainly inform — a great story invites an expansion of understanding, a self-transcendence. More than that, it plants the seed for it and makes it impossible to do anything but grow a new understanding — of the world, of our place in it, of ourselves, of some subtle or monumental aspect of existence.
I think this applies to both fiction writing and non-fiction. I can see how we can even tell great stories through business writing. Resorting to expanded PR pitches misses opportunities to make more meaningful connections, even though that is the easy option. This is especially when there is more emphasis, too much emphasis, on quantity than quality.
I’m a big fan of great writing advice and I want to share a few quotes that stand out for me so far.
This first one highlights something I’ve been thinking about lately and haven’t been able to capture in words yet. When I write something that feels worthwhile to me, it feels like I am connecting to something profound, simple and eternal. I have this sense of it as a colour palette, oddly, the felt-sense equivalent of a Polaroid photo from my childhood (well, if there were Polaroid photos from my childhood):
We are part of a mystery, a splendid mystery within which we must attempt to orient ourselves if we are to have a sense of our own nature.
Writing that matters is all about honesty, at least for me. Writing honestly is the only way to tap into whatever passes for my flow (I just had this notion of my flow as the literary equivalent of the Speed Force … yes, I’m a fan):
How to feel your way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of your skull.
This next one is a recurring theme with writers and so true. Unfortunately it is also so easy not to follow this advice. It requires a lot of persistence and good habits which are still very much works in progress for me:
Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.
You have to simply love writing, and you have to remind yourself often that you love it.
I definitely have days when I feel ill at the thought of typing anything (fortunately those are often the days I turn to my camera for some non-verbal creative expression) and this piece of advice can be an invaluable help when it’s time to return to my keyboard.