Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Story Knows Best I

Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
~ E.L. Doctorow

So often, the story we're writing is wiser than we are. So often, our creativity begins when we abandon control and just let the story direct us.

As we move forward, writing the word or sentence we know, the next will always appear...if we're open to it. If we have our eyes on the road and our headlights on, if we're prepared to trust in the unknown that lies just beyond the reach of our vision, that unknown will become illuminated...and known.

There's a scene in my novel, The MoonQuest, that reminds me of that Doctorow quote. In it, the main character is walking a fantastical celestial road that only forms as he steps forward. As stressful as the journey is, the road takes him where he needs to go.

Ironically, that's the same journey I have travelled in writing each installment in my Q'ntana Trilogy of novels and films (The MoonQuest, The StarQuest, The SunQuest). Some days Doctorow's headlights showed me the next scene. Some days, they showed me only the next sentence. Some days, only the next word.

But as I surrendered to the journey -- and to the voice of my Muse -- the stories unfolded, magnificently, and in ways I could never have predicted, plotted or imagined.

As I write in The Voice of the Muse: Answering the Call to Write: "All I can do -- all we can ever do, in writing as in life -- is trust in the story. It has never let me down before. Truly, the story knows best."

• How much control do you cling to in your stories? In your life?

• Where you can let go some of that control and trust that the story -- the one you're writing and the one you're living -- knows best?

• Where in your creative journey can you more fully trust that the headlights illuminating your way
will carry you to your destination?

Headlight photo by Peter Roome

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The MoonQuest movie
The MoonQuest book
The Voice of the Muse book
Mark David Gerson


Liz said...

I once heard a sermon on the Bible verse "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet." Apparently, in early Bible times, people actually did wear little oil lamps on their feet if they had to be out at night. The light cast was just enough to illuminate the next step that they had to take. I've always like that picture, and it really helps take the pressure off me as a writer to know that if I just keep stepping forward, I'll be given the light to know what comes next.

Mark David Gerson said...

What a great story, Liz. It makes we want to immediately research "lamp unto my feet" so I can use it in a future piece!