What a Writer Knows


What do you get to know about a story before you tell it? Do you get to know where it begins? Maybe. You do have to start somewhere, and maybe you have a clear idea of what that somewhere is. But how many times have you written a story only to realize what it was really about once you get to the end. In retrospect, that scene in chapter two was where the story, the real story begins.  

Do you get to know where it ends? There are writers who can’t start a story until they know where it’s going. Except to say they know where it’s going is not totally accurate, is it? Even these writers sometimes get to the middle and realize the story is heading in a different direction, that the ending they had in mind was just a placeholder destination to get them moving. I have started these essays absolutely certain I knew they were going, until I got the second paragraph and learned what I actually wanted to write about.

And of course, no writer gets to know what the middle of their story is going to be. You don’t get to know the middle any more than you get to know what every character is going to say in every scene, any more than I get to know what every sentence will be before I write it. So what do we get to know about our stories? What do I know for sure before I begin?

That I’m interested. That’s it. That’s all I ever know for sure because everything else is in the future. Every twist, every sentence, every discovery waits for me down the road, and I’ll know them when I’m there with them, when I’ve found them. Meanwhile, my interest in following that road is with me from the start. It is my guide and constant companion. This must be enough. What I have right now has to be enough, even as I feel like I’m looking for more of something, even as my curiosity feels like hunger, I must know that I begin fully equipped for my journey, with a map in my heart only my faithful, constant companion can see.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.