The Marionette's Song

Writers play a strange game with themselves sometimes. We sit at our desks and in one way or another ask the question, “What shall I feel today?” After all, to write about love, you must first feel love; to write about fear, you must feel fear. So too anger, frustration, shyness, curiosity, or vanity. First you feel it, then you write it. Sometimes we ask this question by wondering what our characters are feeling, and sometimes we ask this question by wondering what is going to happen in a given scene, and sometimes we ask it simply by wondering what we will write about that day. However we ask it, the answer is always a feeling. That is what we are here to communicate: the felt knowledge of life. To forget this is to forget why we are writing.

At our desk, we choose what it is we will feel and what it is we will share. Sometimes at our desk we forget to ask what a scene or character or essay should feel like. As soon as we forget this, there are no right answers. We are lost in a forest of words and ideas without meaning.

Until we remember – and there we are again, and we finish our day’s work, and get up from the desk feeling like ourselves. Then we wander out into the world and we begin to play the strange game. We say, “There’s too much violence in the world; I must feel bad.” Or, “My boyfriend hasn’t called in two days; I must feel unlovable.” Now the world tells us how to feel. Now the world is the author of our lives, and we are its marionette characters.

So it often seems to me, I have to admit, but as any good fiction writer knows, the characters are there to tell you what will happen next, not the other way around. I can be no different. I don’t know what will happen from one moment to the next, but I know how I want to feel. The moment I remember this, I remember who I am, and the strings are cut, and I will do my dance only when it feels right.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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