We’re two weeks away from the official publication date for my craft book, Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life, something I never could have seen coming when I started this blog way back when. Before this blog, I’d never done much writing about writing. Instead, I’d done a good bit of talking about writing around the workshop table. At first, I didn’t want to do this blog. My web designer had to convince me it was necessary to draw traffic to my author site. I’m glad I listened.
I was hesitant because I felt that time spent blogging would mean less time spent on my own work. What I’ve found, though, is that blogging is merely an extension of my teaching. Both keep me active in the conversation about craft that’s inextricable from the writing I do. When I write about writing, just as when I teach, I find myself thinking more deeply about my own craft. The practice I do in my writing room each day when I work on my fiction or nonfiction provides material for the blog and for my teaching. It’s all about engaging on a deeper level with the craft.
In one section of Telling Stories, I recall how, when I was a small boy, my aunt would take me to the gravel road that ran by my grandmother’s house and together we’d sort through rocks, which for some reason, fascinated me. My aunt was so patient while I took my time sorting and eventually deciding which rocks to add to my collection. Here’s how I describe the lesson she gave the writer I’d one day become:
It takes time and courage to look closely at something and to see the things that others have passed over. Isn’t that what we do as writers? We poke and poke at situations, characters, images, language until some precious thing emerges, precious because it’s gone unnoticed by so many. We gather that thing up, that truth, and we shape it and we carry it back to the other members of our human tribe. It’s only ours to share, though, because we took the time to look, because we had the heart to care, because we had the need to know what we might find.
I hope this craft book will be an extension of the conversation I’ve started with this blog, and I hope it will invite you to sit with me awhile and look more closely at some of the elements of narrative that I’ve found of interest as I’ve developed my own writing: the art of the scene, the art of the detail, the art of characterization, the art of point of view, the art of language. I also hope the book will provide encouragement and support for those who, like me, volunteer for the life-long apprenticeship that the writing life requires:
What else are we to do, my friends, but the work that sustains us. Push on with hope, with faith, with the appreciation of what we love and how blessed we are to be able to face that blank page again and again, each day.
We all have writing to do, yes, but what is practice without thought, without examination? I think of all the craft books that were instrumental to my own development as a writer and how they deepened my understanding of the elements of storytelling. It’s easy for writers to feel isolated particularly if they’re not part of a writing community. I hope that Telling Stories, an extension of this blog, will bring something of consequence to someone who may be out there writing in isolation—that and a word of encouragement to let them know they aren’t alone.