Reading engages us, shapes us and our culture. We know this to be true. But why? Why does it have such powerful sway over all of us? Well, according to Ray Bradbury the answer is: Love and vomit.
Kathleen says: Bradbury's little chapbook, Zen in the Art of Writing, was the first book on the craft I ever loved, and it's still a favorite. In it, he writes, "Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together."Messy writer, isn't he? But what about those authors among us who carefully plan their stories before they write a single paragraph? What do explosions and vomit have to do with an outline?
Bonnie says: Explosions have everything to do with writing – outlines, plots, voice, characters, you name it. The explosion of self, the intentional dissection of what it means to be human, to feel, to die, to love, to suffer alone is daily in the life of a writer. Ray Bradbury speaks eloquently of the vomiting mess, the explosive chaos, the dizzying heights of love as the essence of writing because writing is, at its heart, the rendering of bare truth told in the most universal way possible. Writing a story takes courage, because it will always out you. It will always shine light on the buried source of that which makes us human. That is why we must write what we love. We couldn’t bear it otherwise.
Kathleen says: So even if you plot out your novel before you start writing, you can still spill your passion all over that plot. The key is, don't think. Just on paper, do a Jackson Pollock with your impulses, thoughts, ideas. Get angry. Get ridiculously joyful. Cry your private tears in public. What does your character do next? Quick, quick: what's the wildest thing she could do? What is the one thing that everyone says, "Oh no. No, no, not that! Noooo don't do that." But they secretly hope she will.
The story is the framework for how we organize and talk about the human experience. It's the frame that forces us to make sense, make connections, make magic on the page. The raw material for story is your own story - which, when turned into artful prose, becomes everyone's story.