You Know

It was Frank Delaney who first pointed out to me that all writers create problems to which they already know the answers. It can often seem the exact opposite. It can seem, in those jungle-dark days deep in the middle of an unmoving story, that this problem has been handed to you by an evil master who delights in both your failure and your wasted time. Unfortunately, you are that master, and no one handed you this problem – you chose it willingly. What we often forget when we are in that troublesome middle was how our stories began. An idea comes to us, and we think, “Now that is interesting.” We think this before we could possibly know why. But we know it all the same. We know it without an explanation or a diagram or an outline. Our knowledge is as complete and immediate as it is mysterious, and so we write so that we can learn what it is we know.

Except that we human beings are in the habit of waiting for other people to tell us when something is correct. We have created critics and teachers and editors and parents and coaches and judges all charged with that duty. It’s very tempting to ask someone else if the problem has been solved. What’s more, we writers want lots and lots of people to be as interested in our stories as we are. You, the writer, are only one person. That’s not much of a readership.

Unfortunately there is one thing all those other people will never know: Why you started writing this story in the first place. No one can ever know why something is of interest to you. No one can ever know what you know or why you know it. You can ask them all you want, but they will never be able to answer. You are alone with the knowledge of what you love – until you write it. And then all those other people can read it, and they will know too.

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

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