Write It Out: Instruction Video
“New York State Highway 30 runs south from the town of Malone to Saranac Lake, the scenery growing ever more green and wild as the road rises steadily into the Adirondack Mountains. If it weren’t for the occasional vehicle encountered along the way, it would be difficult to determine what decade it is by staring out the windshield alone.
Head off the road and into the woods and tracking of time becomes even more difficult. In this heavily forested place, the closest thing to a calendar is the leaves, which is what appealed most to William Chapman White. White was a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and New York Herald Tribune in the chaotic years between the two world wars. When White would return from difficult assignments in such places as Russia, China and Germany, he would escape to his wife Ruth’s family cabin on nearby Lake Colby. Here he found something in the mixed forests of upstate New York that he could find nowhere else in the world: peace . . . and perspective.
White wrote many books on world affairs, but, curiously, the one that survives long after his death in 1955 is Adirondack Country, in which he sought to explain what it was that drew him back here again and again and again.
“As a man tramps the woods to the lake,” White wrote, “he knows he will find pines and lilies, blue herons and golden shiners, shadows on the rocks and the glint of light on the wavelets, just as they were in the summer of 1354, as they will be in 2054 and beyond. He can stand on a rock by the shore and be in a past he could not have known, in a future he will never see. He can be a part of time that was and time yet to come.””
I like to write stories. I like to see what happens as I write, and then to ask and listen to the characters tell me what they want when I get stuck. I always get stuck when I haven’t listened to them, but they never give up on me. Sometimes they may say, “not now”, and then I put the story aside.
In the writing I do here for you, for Write It Out, I don’t want to be flashy or preachy or to make it about me. In this space, right here, my greatest goal is to encourage YOU to write. For you to listen to the characters in your OWN head, and to write YOUR story.
It’s true. That’s what is important and real to me – YOUR stories.
When we each write our own stories, and then share them by allowing others to read, or to listen as they are being read, we can hear something in, or behind, or under the words – something, somewhere – that reveals to us more about ourselves. It shows us how connected we really are to each other. Perhaps even more than we expected.
When we are able to move past specific words used and how the story was constructed – because that’s not the story at all, the story is so much more than that, deeper than that – we can connect at a much deeper level.
Both writers and readers can get bogged down in the construction of a story – and even this tells us more about ourselves. Our being bogged down, either in our writing or in our reading, doesn’t dictate whether the story is worthy. ALL stories, true stories from the heart, are worthy.
As stories are being born, they are like diamonds hidden in a coal bin. Dusting them off, picking them out of the coalbin and bringing the hunks of graphite to the diamond cutter and finally, having them cut and polished to reveal the dazzling diamond – THAT is the work that happens AFTER the story has been written. The spell check and grammar correction, punctuation, and syntax correction, editing and refining – that is all worthless if there is no story. The story, your diamond, must first be brought into existence. It can take a long time. That’s okay.
So, please! Don’t worry about the dusting and cutting and polishing bits. That can come later, once you have actually finished your story.
Now, just… write it out!
I so loved the 2017 movie “The Man Who Invented Christmas”, screenplay written by Canadian author Susan Coyne. It is based on the story of how Charles Dickens wrote The Christmas Carol. It was fascinating to me how Dickens’ characters came to life and told him, basically, that the reason why he was stuck was because he wasn’t listening to them. What a lovely way to get through writers block! (Christopher Plummer was perfect as Scrooge, of course!)
Neil Gaiman, a favourite author of mine, has said,
“If you get stuck, you can ask yourself what your characters
want—and that is like a flashlight.
It shines a light on the road ahead and lets you move forward. It’s the
only question that opens the door to ‘What do you do next?’”
Is there an inspirational author, figure, mantra or tip that helps to keep you on track? Share your thoughts here!