How A Story Moves...


This is how it starts. You write a word and then a thought begins to appear as sentence. And then all these thoughts strung together, like beans on a wire, follow that one. The page accepts them all, no matter what condition they are in. It is a picture. The page is putty, the page is wet clay—fresco, sculpture—relief. You can always scrap it all and chunk it out later, but you really shouldn’t do anything that theatrical until the morning after, at least. The page is still malleable for days after accepting words and thoughts. It will not set before you can throw the wet cloth of maybe-more-later over it for the night.

You have a voice, and when it needs to speak there should be quiet. The quiet should often come perhaps after loud music and terse movement and impassioned pleas, but then there should be quiet. Shut everything off. Walk into your house alone. Absolute quiet when listening to your voice, to that voice, the one you have not listened to in a long while yet, not well enough anyway, is essential. It is essential at least until you hear the motor begin to purr good again and the wheels grabbing at the track inside the landscape of your being.

And then you need to put your Editor aside—the one inside your head that is worried about how things will turn out, how it might read to others. You need to just be the writer. You are the only one for the moment witnessing this new creation. Let it be insane, let it be good, let it be hogwash. Let it be big or small. But get out of the way of the words and let the admission be admonition. Let things write themselves for a while, or write for themselves, before you have the chance to intervene. Do not get in the way of a good thing.

I do believe that any writing that is worth its weight, any writing that is, as one writer has said, “about the heart of the matter and not the glands,” is written by one person to another. Good writing is perhaps even written for someone who is unspecified but not specifically unknown. Writing is story telling, and what story is more intimate and compelling than the one being told to one, two, or maybe three people who need to hear it the most? Think about who you are talking to.

So, go and bring your projects in tomorrow. Our purpose is to get something started, to show you how it feels to clear the bar as an athlete today. You must use your muscles, that thick one inside your chest and the soft one between your ears and the tight one twisting around inside your gullet at this very instant. Put them to work by setting them loose for once. They are the better part of your experienced self. That is all you need to do to have a start. That is all you are responsible for completing today, a start. We will go from there, together, from that point.

Then there is eventually the time when you will read again what you yourself have writtten. It will be new and perhaps somewhat awkward, or even startling at first, but probably not for the reasons you might have hoped. You will realize what does and what does not work. An editor, even in a writer’s own conscious mind, is an individual aside from the writer who is thirsty for satisfaction and illumination. Spiritual and otherwise, not just grammatical. As you reread, you begin to recognize what must be fine tuned; the affection that does not belong in this scene—not quite yet—the tone that slipped into self-pity at the end of that stark confession, or the timing that now is all wrong between the “bump in the night” and the “bang on the head”. And you work them out of the clay of the page they are impressed into the same as working wrinkles from the bed before sleep and working smoothness from dullness where bone meets the surface of skin in the finest of sculpture. You hold yourself to standards set by the greatest artists of all time, even if your work at first only emulates modest skill. You work your materials into character and suspense and honesty, and then there is no cheating nor cheapness left inside what you have done.

At the end of a good work, the piece is a living thing. The piece stands for what is HUMOR and HUMANE at last, not only for what is human. The piece stands apart from you—as an individual—the piece stands alone, as far more than only you alone. A great story is about the perhaps ignored but acknowledgably human side of things, and a truly great one is always written by a human being struggling with a life to account for. So enjoy what this writer you are has to show you.

And then you have done the remarkable. You have just begun to create.

How A Story Moves...

Timothy Wilkendorf

Saint Paul, United States

  • Artist
  • Artwork Comments 2

Artist's Description

…teaching myself…

Artwork Comments

  • eelsblueEllen
  • Timothy Wilkendorf
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