Changing Minds


There are two ways writers usually find the kind of story they want to tell. The first way is to read a story you love. This happened to me when I was thirteen and read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I soon found myself writing stories of magic and adventure because I liked how it felt when I thought about those kinds of worlds, and I wanted to see what my version of them would look like. It also happened to me when I read Wallace Stevens and E. E. Cummings and Emily Dickenson. These poets seemed like kindred spirits of mine, and reading them I saw that there was a place in the reading world for what I wanted to share.

The second way is to read stuff you don’t like – specifically, when you feel as if the writer is doing something wrong. This is always a clue that you’re ignoring a creative impulse in yourself. This happened to me in middle of my writing life. I found myself complaining about everything I read. Every writer was getting it wrong. They were all missing the point. I complained about them and complained about them until I finally began writing these essays. Then, like magic, I no longer cared what kind of stories other people were telling because I was telling mine.

Both ways work, but the second has its perils. You can become trapped in complaint, stuck staring at what you don’t like, filled with the pent-up creative desire of what wants to be written. It’s an uncomfortable position, and it’s easy to blame what you’re seeing, to believe you’d feel better if only the world you lived in was different.

I don’t know how to change the world, but I do know how to change my mind. The moment I face a blank page and begin telling the story I’ve been craving, I’ve turned my attention to the world I want to see. I know it’s not the world everyone’s seeing, but that’s all right. My job is to see it and share it as accurately as I can. Then maybe someone else can read it and it see a kindred spirit. I may never meet this other person, but that’s all right too. Writers and readers find one another where only the heart can go, the realm where the what the eyes will someday see is actually born.

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