Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ursula LeGuin on How Your Book (or Story) Can Become What It Really Wants to Be

I've tended to avoid reading books on the writing craft, in recent years. Too much emphasis on technique, too little on attending to your inner experience and finding ways to articulate that.

However, I came upon a book by the astonishingly prolific writer Ursula K. LeGuin that I read from cover to cover. It has an interesting, metaphoric title: Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing fro the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew (Eighth Mountain Press, 1998).

And though LeGuin has deep and meaningful things to say, she manages to keep it light. In addition to her praise of long sentences (I loved that, because that's my heart's natural way), she offers a perspective on ego-free writing that, differently, meshes with what I have come to know: that something in us wants to be written through us, and in that process we are transformed.

She says it differently, and valuably. Here it is:

"Some people see art as a matter of control. I see it mostly as a matter of self-control. It’s like this: in me there’s a story that wants to be told. It is my end; I am its means. If I can keep myself, my ego, my opinions, my mental junk, out of the way, and find the focus of the story, and follow the movement of the story, the story tells itself.
"Everything I’ve talked about in this book has to do with being ready to let a story tell itself: having the skills, knowing the craft, so that when the magic boat comes by, you can step into it and guide it where it wants to go, where it ought to go."
I've experienced this, myself. So have the wonderful writers who become my clients. You start with one book, and it turns into what it really wants to be ~ and wants you to become, in the process.

1 comment:

  1. She's right. My way of putting it is that there is a character in my head? heart? soul? - who had a journey to go on, and the only way he could do it was for me to learn and grow brave enough to surrender to the creative flow in order to write his story.