In an exchange earlier today, my wife said to me: “I don’t think like you, John.”
“God help you if you did,” I replied. We both laughed.
That initiated a chain of thought about thinking like a creative writer. This subject has been booted around more times than a ten-year-old’s soccer ball, but somehow the topic never grows too worn for discussion. I mean, writers long to believe that we think, observe and comment in ways that non-writers either fail to, or cannot. We’re special. I don’t intend that as mockery, for I believe that to succeed as a writer, a different method of thinking remains an essential quality. If I am correctly dredging my memory of college literature classes, Emily Dickinson said tell the truth but tell it slant. My apologies to my former professors if I’ve mangled that attribution.
I write fiction (aside from this blog) and it’s important to me that my writing lead to truth…if not on a direct path, then along a circuitous, but discernible, route. Admittedly, the truth toward which I guide you may be my truth, not yours, but its expression remains central to what I hope to achieve in my writing. My thought process, my observations, my commentary…if they offer nothing novel (couldn’t help myself…I abhor puns in my fiction, so I surrender to them in my blog) for the reader, then I feel I’ve failed. So the mythical truth that writers think differently from those who do not write is something I want to accept. When I imagine a scene or a character, I liken it to viewing a compass pointing true north, straight on. But then I turn that compass a few degrees and note the revelations of a change in perspective. I realize there’s nothing earth-shattering about this process, but belaboring the obvious can be beneficial, if only to remind me of the mechanics that have served me well, and I hope will continue to serve me well.
Our craving for exceptionalism aside, creative writers do function differently…the panorama outside our window transforms into a descriptive scene; the woman in line ahead of us at the grocery store exhibits the behavior, speech patterns, or personality of a character; and a situation we encounter morphs into a plot line. We are intellectual scavengers and recyclers. And all of it is regarded as noble as we chase the truth.
So yes, God help you if you think like us. However, I prefer to believe…God help you if you don’t.