Friday, July 11, 2014

The Power of Writing

Today I met with a brilliant new writer who has yet to publish officially. Of course he's not "new" to writing at all. In fact, he's just retired from a full career as an elementary teacher, and he's been writing seriously for himself and for his students for thirty years.

In the past few years, he's done this remarkable thing: He's begun rewriting all of his old prose as poetry. He's telling stories in poems, and he has a powerful understanding of when to break a line. He described to me his process of going back through his stories, his words, and cutting out everything--words, punctuation--that isn't absolutely essential. It's like Homeric poetry but in simple, immediately accessibly free-verse.

So now he's working on manuscripts that are entirely his own writing world. There's this lovely, dark edge to them as they tell lightly funny stories about damaged characters. One project in particular, which he's titled The Incredible Shrinking Boy, sounds ready to be a classic--a haunting story with the power to change how readers see the world.

This reminds me of how powerful the habit and craft of writing really is. My life was enriched this week because another person devoted consistent time over three decades to writing down stories as they came to him and in reflection--and then shared that work with me.

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