When sweet Patti and I were at the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, MI in April, we heard the astounding story of Kate DiCamillo, who began her writing career as a 29-year-old working in a book warehouse in the children’s section. This award-winning author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread related that by reading the books she stocked, she began to have some ideas about what makes good writing. But Kate soon discovered that exposure to good writing was not enough, talent was not enough, and even hard work was not enough (though she says it is a major part of her success.)
DiCamillo said that while people can teach others many writing skills (and Patti’s post on Monday brought out some marvelous techniques for identifying and pruning extraneous language, for instance), no one can teach metaphor. You either have the skill of creating it or you don’t. This isn’t exactly news: Aristotle who lived over 2000 years ago said
The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. This alone cannot be imparted by another; it is the mark of genius, for to make good metaphors implies an eye for resemblance. –Aristotle, Poetics
I … dunno about that genius bit. But I know that my mind has been percolating as I finish a novel (my regular thinking is Mr. Coffee ™ drip system; when I’m writing I’m a Bunn ™ pourover coffee dispenser with the water always boiling ready to spill into brew.) Yep, I’m full of metaphors.
Well, most everyone who reads this blog is a writer. Do you think in metaphors? I bet you do. I’m going to get you started with a list of writing metaphors from my hot little carafe, so to speak.
- Last week I referred to the oft-quoted saying that writing is easy, all you do is sit in front of a keyboard and open a vein. Writing my present WIP is more like doing your own bone marrow extraction.
- If I’m successful in luring readers into my literary world, it will be by slathering them with an emollient atmosphere until they feel so weightless in it that I can pull them along with invisible spider threads.
- Rewriting feels like a heifer chewing cud: I do it because of my faith that the result will be great; but if I have to be involved with the process one more time I fear I may regurgitate and not be able to swallow it again.
Come on! What does writing feel like to you?