On the Periphery

Things change. Life throws us curves and changeups. It's good to have a place to vent.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A new biography of Charles Schulz suggests that all of the angst-driven philosophy of the Peanuts characters was drawn from Schulz’s own self-tormented life.

Well, duh.

Any literature (and Peanuts is great literature) is in fact drawn from the author’s own life—the doubts and insecurities and hopes and dreams of the writer flow through the pen, adapting to fit the characters and the story, but rooted nonetheless in the writer’s own reality. The fact that perhaps Charles Schulz was not the kind, moral, cheerful person he presented, that he was tormented by his own (real or imagined) demons, matters not. What counts is that he could channel that inner turmoil to a higher level, projecting that humanity through his characters, profoundly touching and affecting others.

That is what writing is all about—the need to express and connect, to tell a story that touches another person, to create a feeling of “yeah, I feel it, I’ve been there.” Good writing transcends time and space to communicate human emotions, to connect our lives with others. This connection is the real string theory, the meaning behind all life, the knowledge that we are not alone in our own personal darkness. It makes the universe a little less vast, our own lives a little less puny.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fun (and Challenging) Writing Exercise

I know I will be thrilled to finish my degree, but I will miss classes like this term's fiction workshop. Last week we were given a wonderful writing exercise I'd like to share. I'd done this in the past with theater students as a lesson in listening, but this was a little different as a written exercise. Try it sometime. It might free your mind!

1. Quickly think of three unrelated events, places, or situations. Any kind. Jot them down.
2. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Then pick one of the things you listed and develop it into a story.
3. When the time goes off, stop writing. Finish whatever thought or sentence you were on, and set the timer again.
4. Try to incorporate a second item from your list into the first story. When the timer goes off, stop writing, finishing up your thought or sentence. Set the timer again.
5. Try to incorporate your third item into the story. When the timer goes off, stop. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
6. Go back and revise as much as possible within those last five minutes.

I really enjoyed this. I also learned I can't just shut off my mind or separate the three items. I couldn't help thinking, while writing the first section, just where the second might fit in and working toward that. It was a lesson to me on how I write--I look ahead, formulating plot and arc in my head. Interesting self-awareness!