I made coffee this morning which can mean only one thing: classes have begun. This term, it’s technical writing. Something different. I’ve discovered the importance of architecture, that is, the structures both hidden and visible that support, define, and inspire the art of writing.
The art of writing is not really even an art. It is a vehicle, a means of communicating with the world around us. The art lies in the conversation, that process of perception and interpretation by which our words come to mean something – and what’s more, to do something in the world around us.
For the next 5.5 weeks, my class will be writing procedures manuals – with a twist.
I will see manuals on how to save the day (written by a first responder), how to holistically treat ADHD, how to prepare for the demands of motherhood, and many, many more.
Their enthusiasm has inspired me to write my own manual: how to write a novel.
It is not an art, I’ve come to accept, but a science (an art of a different language). I’ve also come to learn that true creativity and innovation is realized when limited. A blank canvas is a blank canvas. But to work within limitations – that is art, building that which connects, which fills, which brings together. Anyone can write and many can write well. But very few can engage, connect, and transform our many parts and inspire unity beyond ourselves.
That is what writing is – a how to manual, a conversation that informs, defines, inspires, and ultimately expands what we know so that we can expand who we are and what we do with the time and space given to us.
As I aimlessly wander through nearly 200 pages of sheer gibberish and rambling chaos that is my first draft, I think back to a conversation I had with my father years back. My father, the architect, was a master of hidden structures. He stated, profoundly, that: “the art of it all lies in the decision. What we choose to reveal versus what we choose to hide. Regardless, the structure stands. But that decision…that is what defines what it means in its existence.”
The meaning lies in the process, the way in which its many parts are planned, are plotted, and fit together. Its the reader that enters the structure, the reader who transforms my empty traces and beams and transforms it into a story. My concern lies within the architecture. My reader will create the meaning behind and within it.
I desperately need a how to manual. I need structure, architecture, a medium of design and purpose through which the words and their meaning will manifest. Without the structure, it is aimless. And in my attempts to be aimless, a desperate and starving artist, I’ve forgotten a desperate truth. Writing is a kind of science, a system of thoughts and ideas articulated in systems and screens. The art lies in the conversation, the way a structure builds and then fills its borders.
To write a novel:
1. Be inspired
2. Get organized