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February 19, 2024

Putting It Together

By Cheryl Haimann

There are thousands of reasons why people write. I've probably heard most of them, and none of them ring true for me.

Story ideas waking me from a sound sleep? Never. Characters in my head, begging me to tell their storie? Not hardly. Purging inner demons? Creating new worlds? Setting right in words what has been wrong in life? No, no, and no.

For me, writing is a puzzle.

At its most basic, writing is a way to transmit ideas from the writer to the reader. Simple, yes, but also enormously complex.

If you write anything at all, be it a novel or a shopping list, with the intent that someone else may read it, you will have to make decisions. Some may be simple. Should I write a training document or a poem? Is it serious or funny?

Other decisions may seem smaller, but can have a profound effect on the writing. Is this metaphor clear? Am I being too vague? Too obvious? Are the details accurate? Does it sound right?

One of the most frustrating, and most rewarding, experiences I have as a writer is the Big Switcheroo. I'll be writing along cheerfully when some tiny idea pokes me in the arm. "That is perfect!" I think, for a few seconds, quickly followed by, "But I'll have to change everything I've already done!"

I worked the Sunday crossword puzzle in the newspaper last week, and I realized that this "Hey, look over here!" moment in writing feels just like that moment when you realize that, if you change the answer for "Callas role" from TOSCA to NORMA, all of the other answers will fall neatly into place. It requires some erasing, but the end result is pleasingly satisfying.

Of course, in creative writing, this self-editing process means that some of your words and ideas have to be left behind, but that's why you write again tomorrow. So, if in the future, you see an article from me explaining why the George Jones classic, "He Stopped Loving Her Today" is one of the Great American Poems of the Twentieth Century, it's just because it didn't fit into today's puzzle.

-- Cheryl Haimann

Article © Cheryl Haimann. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-04-20
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