Compliments of jeffrey james pacres via Flickr

Compliments of jeffrey james pacres via Flickr

As a student of MTWrite (formerly Writer’s Loft) I’m learning to write fiction. Story telling culls experience into coherent form, with fictional characters as  self-expression. It is, one could say, the grown-up equivalent of playing with dolls. Disparate threads from experience, research, and future envisioning coagulate in new and unexpected stories. For a writer, no experience is wasted: each viewed through past lenses contains potentially rich information.

Puzzling episodes can morph into strong voices for characters who jump off the page. Working on creative projects activates your brain’s reticular vision – your mental scanning system that selects from the storehouse of everyday life. As Stephen King argues, stories aren’t written, they’re excavated – with the next scene or plot twist seemingly channeled from other sources.

Writers in the zone don’t experience regret concerning events, where they are in the process, or if they’ve missed out on something important – because intuitively, they know they are in the right place at the right time. They enjoy the ride without focusing on results. Observations form an intricate tapestry, each one contributing something unique to a unified, interconnected whole. Writing from the soul is an expression of what would otherwise remain silent.

Characters and story can speak what the larger part of us is unable to articulate. According to Dorothy Allison,

I believe the secret of writing is that fiction never exceeds the reach of the writer’s courage. The best fiction comes from the place where the terror hides, the edge of our worst stuff. I know that until I started pushing on my own fears, telling the stories that were hardest for me, writing about exactly the things I was most afraid of and insecure about, I wasn’t writing worth a damn.”

Fiction is the place where the alchemy of your personal experience can shine. It allows for the delayed replay of real life.

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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