M’appelle walked briskly on the sidewalk, knitted blue-and-golden scarf looped around her neck. Two older (perspective) women approached her, both wearing white. She moved to the right, making room for all three of them but suddenly, one of her sisters stepped down from the curb. No! M’appelle wanted to scream out: There Is Room for All of Us to Walk Together! There was no need to speak because all three of them sang out “Good morning!” Even the well-fed crow in the distance was aware as it stepped up onto its own curb instead of flying.
I’m reading Exile and the Kingdom, a collection of short stories by Albert Camus. The context of the excerpt below is a merchant making a sales call. Consider whether you feel the following sentence is sexist:
“He got excited, raised his voice, laughed nervously, like a woman who wants to make an impression and is not sure of herself.”
Think about how this sentence reads with some gender swapping and a minor adjustment:
“She got excited, lowered her voice, laughed nervously, like a man who wants to make an impression and is not sure of himself.”
[Also note the use of both the past and present tenses (raised/lowered-wants/is). Good example of wielding artistic license and being intentional?]
The other thing I find interesting is related to my current crusade to see writing from the perspective of the writer. It’s quite easy to objectively experience this sentence existentially, given the source.
I’m sharing this example primarily because of our recurring conversations about the treatment of gender in our writing. What constitutes an “authentic” voice between genders? Pondering rhetorical questions such as this one can bring a greater awareness and impact to our writing.
Quite some time ago, I wrote with another writer on occasion. The other writer had created a charming story about relatives some of whom I happened to know. During that period, we both attended a writing seminar in which the facilitator made some radical suggestions that the other writer accepted. In my opinion, the result was first-degree murder of the heart and soul of what had been a very moving story.
That was one of many similar experiences that caused me to be receptive when the concept of Motivational Writing presented itself to me. The mere possibility of allowing writing to bring out the best in serious writers from the author’s perspective has been irresistible since the idea’s inception.
Now, I’m so grateful to be in touch with motivational writers every single day. What a tremendous blessing! Recently, a writer produced an extraordinary preface. When I raved about it, that writer said, “It makes me feel like I know what I’m doing!” That is true for all of you—the more fully you embrace your work as serious writers, the more confidence and certainty about your storytelling will emerge.
In sharing that exchange with yet another motivational writer, the practice of “doing what’s best for the work” surfaced. It’s beautiful when what’s best for the work is also what’s best for the writer, but that is not always the case. Writing involves intensive decision-making every step of the way. With practice, it can become a great comfort to know exactly how to answer the very important question: What is best for my work?
Think about this.
The crow lit on top of a telephone pole; that’s where the conversation began. The interlocutors were one dog followed by another in an alpha-male/female kind of way. Before you knew it, there was a sure-enough call and response. A riff steeped in deep yearning for communication.
Feathers and fur.
Who uttered the first word, again?
Seems like the dogs got this party started. The crow’s perching on the telephone pole brought up the curtain. A breeze stirred and wind chimes played their music. Sound was all there was.
The air settled.
The crow flew off.
Dog speech turned off all the way.
Silence was transformed by quietude.
The more immersed I become in our work as motivational writers, the more differently I experience everything that has to do with the way we practice our craft. Currently, I’m on this rather intense jag about seeing things from the writer’s perspective rather than prematurely trying to connect with an audience. Part of me wants readers to work harder to understand us as writers, then I say, “Wait a minute. Do I want to do that when I read someone else’s work?” Then I realized this:
I think there is a sharp yet subtle shift that occurs when we’re writing together or on our own and then releasing our work to a public. This is part of the transformation from writer to author.
In other words, it’s making more and more sense to me that we should be our own first audiences in order to compellingly project the purposes that emerge in our writing to those with whom it will resonate. That’s the beautifully interactive part of the whole experience—in a sense, having readers pick up where we leave off once we publish our writing.
There is no “always” in any of this; it is not a call to vibe with every single writer. Instead, it is a standing invitation to write the books we want.
Narrative: a spoken or written account of connected events; a story.
I’ve just added the tagline, “a nonlinear narrative,” to my work in progress. I love this concept of nonlinear connection. I also just wrote a new section of this narrative. (Those of you who join us actually know its working title.) 🙂 Thanks to all of you for your inspiration and motivation. I’m sending this same energy in your direction.
This morning, I woke up thinking about omniscient narration. An enduring example of this is being introduced to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers in Ms. Pages’ seventh-grade English class. Here, I’ll also reference a rhythmic technique I’m experimenting with from Toni Morrison’s Jazz.
As always, I hope something here is useful to you.
Joseph Bruchac: The Positive Powers of Drums, Circles, and More
Currently, I’m reading the third book in Joseph Bruchac’s trilogy—The Waters Between. It’s preceded by Dawn Land and Long River. Mr. Bruchac’s prose is extraordinary in all conceivebale ways. It is beautiful. It is instructive. It is wise. It is balanced and positive.
Listen to Joseph Bruchac right here: