Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Curse of Concrete/Sequential

By Alex Raley

My twelve-year-old grandson just finished a workshop in creative writing as a part of the University of South Carolina's Carolina Master Scholar program. After the first day, I asked him whether the workshop was what he expected. His response was negative. A bit surprised, I asked him what he expected. He said, "Boooring!" I said, "It isn't boring?" "No, it is so fun. We wrote about twenty short poems and prose pieces." I ignored the "so fun" nonsense and pondered writing "so much" in a group setting. His group kept that pace for five days. Of course, they met from 8:30 to 3:30 with a lunch break.

Groups are inspiring to me. I get excited on hearing the work of members of our writing group. Even reading books on writing is helpful and goads me to get to writing more. Attending workshops on writing provides me with lots of fodder for thought, but rarely do I produce something in the workshop that excites me. I suppose my mind just doesn't work that way.

For most of my life I have thought through scenarios in my mind before beginning to write. That may have come from the many essays I had to write throughout my school career--essays that had to have well-defined theses and a sequenced development of those theses that would bring you to logical conclusions. Do you suppose we are wired before birth to be concrete/sequential or random access? If so, lucky is the writer of fiction who is wired as random access. Fiction is about life and life is not concrete/sequential.

Recognizing my bent to think concrete/sequentially and paying homage to that bent for its contributions to me throughout my school years, especially graduate school, I set about remaking myself. One of the things I did was to use every opportunity to jot down bits and pieces of scenes and experiences without tying them to other thoughts that might try to drive them to a logical end. I also approached reading differently. I chose books that did not feed my bent to the logical. Even mysteries, which must be built with a good measure of logic, lead you down many unexpected paths before finally confronting you with what you logically should have expected.

Writing poetry also has helped me. Poetry is built on unexpected interesting images drawn into the vortex your writing. The idea of poetry enhancing fiction is for a later blog.

Can you still expect to see me in writing workshops? Count on it. I love the camaraderie of and conversation with other writers. Now that's where random access resides.

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