Once I had drafted my first novel (which is currently in the revision stage), I felt rather proud of myself. I had set my mind to a project and actually followed through with it. Though I still never spoke about the accomplishment to anyone other than my friends or by a singular “I did it!” tweet on Twitter, the experience brought an unlikely revelation my way.
That is, I realized just how many people shared my goal and just how many people had story ideas exactly like I did.
Mankind is a creature intrinsically drawn to stories; stories exist in our everyday lives, our every moment. Actually, take this time to imagine a world without them. Yeah, sure, no one could write a book, but also, you could never talk about your day, either. You could never tell someone about a time when you were younger, or about a great grandfather that they will never meet. And, of course, you could never hear Karen complain about how she had to speak to the manager at McDonald’s. We as humans have the art of telling a tale bred into our souls, and life without them would be quite difficult (and perhaps unfathomable).
Photo by Morgan White
A friend asked me something the other day that I feel captures my ideology on this subject. He simply asked me “How do you write?” Though he himself is an aspiring songwriter and was mainly referring to poetry, the purpose of my message still stands. The thing is that, if you want to write——if you want to focus on telling stories or writing poetry——you must change your psychology. When I started writing, I thought a certain way, but now I don't think that way any more. The very way that my brain functions isn’t the same as it was when I began writing. As I said before, man is innately predisposed to storytelling; however, I do not believe that man is aware that he is such. It doesn't come immediately. Thankfully, you just have to work at it——and, I believe, anyone can. Stories exist all around us; they are a constant in nature and a product of the very flow of time itself. As long as things are able to change, there will always be stories to depict those changes; as long as conflict exists, there will always be stories of how they were resolved (both ending well and ending tragically). But the eye of the writer must be able to detect these subliminal clues; it must be able to point out the hints and determine where the story lies within them.
One of my favorite quotes, by William Faulkner, will do well here, I believe:
“A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.”
A writer indeed has those three tools: observation, experience, and imagination.
You must train yourself to be observant to little things. The world around us is begging to be seen in a different way; it is begging to be found as it is, and not as it is merely seen. Likewise, I read books all the time where a writer explains something so small in such a brilliant way. That's the Writer's Observation at work.
Experience is a bit more concrete. Experience is known, where observation is acquired. You can inherently write about what you know and have lived through, mainly because you are the only one who wields that perspective, and you are the only one who wields in that particular way.
Imagination is the strange one, mainly because it's abstract. Imagination is a mixture of wit and creativity. It's the place where a writer becomes an artist and twists things to his liking. In the hands of imagination, the universe is but a tool of the mind; it is but the hammer that collides onto the red-hot metal as the writer forms it into something brand new——some foreign mutation of what it once was.
None of these three are promised and sometimes they are merely given. All around us, there are things for us to say and things for us to hear. We must simply know when to speak and when to listen.