Standing Out

Thursday, August 12, 2010
The other night, Andy and I motored down to the north bay to do a little fishing. Our true motivation wasn’t fish but to take in a still, warm summer evening in a quiet bay removed from the rest of the lake’s evening anglers. As we headed down the lake, this island, with its single bright tree, caught my eye. "That," I thought, as I tried to take a non-blurry picture as we cruised by, "is what I want to be."

There are always plenty of doubts to tangle with whatever you do in life and if you’re setting out as a writer, it seems you’re especially susceptible to doubting whether or not you have what it takes to really, truly stand out. Imagination/muse, whatever it is that keeps the words sprinkled across the page in a somewhat logically manner, is a fickle utensil to base a whole career around. And imagination has a sneaking sort of way of ending up not quite as original as you thought it might be.

Often it seems as though my imagination is little more than a parrot. Like any writer at any point in time, dealing with the seven original plots this entire world offers can seem a little stifling. Gore Vidal said that “each writer is born with a repertory company in his head. Shakespeare has perhaps 20 players. . . . I have 10 or so and that’s a lot. As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.” 7 basic plots? Lucky to have 10 unique characters? That seems like a pretty limited toolbox to be playing with. As the number of aspiring novelists rises, it’s easy to feel lost in a sea of aspiration instead of inspiration.

On the other hand, for centuries writers have scratched out a life for themselves with only a pad of paper and a pencil (or a laptop). They probably didn’t spend too much time worried about how original their stories were. Instead they wrote what amused them. More than that, they met deadlines, negotiated contracts, and let go of projects that weren’t succeeding. Does perseverance trump skill/imagination?

It’s hard to say, but I do know to keep going. To keep imagining, writing, revising and polishing until some bit of prose turns into a gold flash on an evergreen island.

1 comment:

  1. All those "rehearsal" pieces help you find your way to something that is truly "You" and truly your unique way of telling a story. Hang in there!


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