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"Working with Anya has forever changed my relationship to writing, pulling it from deep in my unconscious up into the light of inquiry." -- Annie Lewis

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Fiction Writer; Poet; Teacher of Creative Writing; Manuscript Consultant; Writing Coach; Founder of the Writing for Social Change: Re-Dream a Just World Workshops; Writing Workshop Leader.

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Dead white English writer, and your sense of time and story structure.

December 7, 2008

 

Dear Writers,

 

I have a confession. I am in love with a dead white English guy, a writer. If it isn’t love, at least it is a shock of recognition, a wave of gratitude at being seen, the kind of amazement when someone brings something into words that illuminates, or puts into relief, or gives name, gives terra firma, gives refuge, touchstone, to the whirl of ideas one has about things important to the spirit.

 

This love is not jealous. I want to share. If you are writing a novel or a book of memoir or creative nonfiction or short fiction, or anything that might not fit some precise box of language; if you have ever chafed against what feels like authoritarian instruction about writing, or the structure of story, and yet wanted and yearned for honest assistance in your work, so you buckle to what feels wrong and yet has the back-up or entitlement of positioning or market or university sanction; if you are so sure there is magic in your work and so unsure as to how to fit it into the world; pick up E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel.

 

Again, that’s E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel.

 

A friend in Boston, a wonderful playwright, Barry Brodsky, mentioned it to me a while ago, and you know how some books don’t get read until they are urgently needed? Well, I urgently needed it and zap! I read and it did its work with me.

 

I want to talk a bit about what I found there in my next posts, but for now, I want to reaffirm this: trust yourself. Trust your deepest sense of yourself as a writer. Trust your sense of language. Trust your sense of time, formed in the very cooking of your life from before you knew there was a way to break apart reality into time; this sense of time, these infinitely varied senses of time human beings hold, have a great deal to do with how you tell story. Some are formed easily, or some writers rigidly hold to a preordained sense of time or buckle to one dictated to them and then proclaim it as The Reality.

 

Many of us form a very different sense of time and with that a very different sense of story structure.

 

Many of us have a badly formed sense of time. Sometimes we write less of “a life in time” and more of “a life of value”.

 

Good. So be it. We need to have our series of events, our story and plot and action, but what Forster says, ooooh la la! He gives the infinite ways human beings form their imagination, the room to move between poles of “time” and “value”. Long story, this story. And I really must go, but his discussion of this is LIBERATING.

 

As is his discussion of kinds of voices and novels, including those voices of prophecy as Melville, Dostoevsky, DH Lawrence, George Eliot.

 

Trust me, I don’t fall easy for dead white English guys. Well, maybe sometimes. So often as I have been “…in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes…” So, actually, don’t trust me. Don’t trust anyone when they push you this way and that way, trying to package your spirit; trying to package the magic, the energy, the nkisi, the medicine packet, the infinitely particular sense of things you have — the contribution of which through writing helps make the full chorus of what literature is likely truly about.

 

I will be back, next time sooner. I am off to spend a little time with a dead white English writer, and oh, it is divine.

 

Blessings,

Till soon,

Anya

Comments

Comment from Patricia
Time: January 16, 2009, 1:33 am

Thanks for this inspiring post, I think, you are really very good writer and I want to read your other articles, keep up your good work and wish you luck.

Comment from Anya
Time: January 16, 2009, 10:56 am

Thanks so much for your interest and kindness. I will be checking your site as well!
A good 2009 to you,
Anya

Comment from Karen
Time: February 4, 2009, 6:52 pm

Anya,

I love your blog! I’m currently taken your writers.com course, which is incredibly helpful and unlike any writing class I’ve tried in the past. So, thank you for the course and for your wonderful blog. I’ve added yours to blogs I follow so I won’t miss a single post.

Karen

Comment from Anya
Time: February 4, 2009, 7:15 pm

Dear Karen,

What a great note to get at a moment I am swirling around in too much work.

I’ll write more in response through our site, but I really do appreciate what you say here.

All best to you,
Anya

Comment from Kristi
Time: February 20, 2009, 2:42 am

Beautiful post! I love all your work and I think that you are wonderful writer!

Comment from Anya
Time: March 11, 2009, 9:46 am

Dear Kristi,

Thank you so much. I intend to keep working at it!
All the best, Anya

Comment from Jill
Time: February 1, 2011, 2:17 am

thanks for the post)) very interesting) very interesting, indeed))

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