Wroblewski and Wisdom

Last Saturday, I had the honor of introducing David Wroblewski, at a Lighthouse Writer’s Buzz event. David is author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, a New York Times bestseller, and the most recent Oprah pick. (Really. Neat, huh? I know an Oprah person.)

If you haven’t read or heard about Edgar Sawtelle, I can only tell you that it is an amazing novel, with the power to create an alternative world, a world that you won’t want to leave. It’s beautiful, heartbreaking, mesmerizing, and instructive as well.

During the Buzz, David read a section from the book and talked about the genesis of the scene, and of the novel in general. And he also discussed the creative impulse, where you take a few images and ideas and basically run with them until you have a collection of raw material that is still far from a coherent piece.

And that’s when you begin to figure out what you have. Allowing these materials–scenes, lines of dialogue, dramatic situations, engaging words, emotional touchstones–to begin to show you where the story wants to go, how it all might fit together.

This is a great metaphor for how the process of writing, as David said, “an unnaturally long story” works. But of course it’s also true for most art. You don’t know what you’re working on until you have something.

Which reminds me of my two kids, watching as they take the blocks out of the plastic bin, and begin building. What it is they often don’t know, until the blocks begin to gain height, to take shape and complexity.

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