Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Two Process Schools?

Dualities are always seductive: left-right, black-white, up-down. Easy ways to classify the world. I, however, come from a place in which you can't classify anything quite so easily. People and places have many names, nothing stays the same, and even gray arrives in multiple shades of dewdrop, granite, and rainy sky. Here's an article on Advaita (non-dualism, monism, call it what you will) that offers a sampler, philosophically speaking. So I'm always a little suspicious of easy 1-2 categories.

Still there do seem to be two ways of looking at process: Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird school, where you slash your veins and bleed all over the paper, bringing your deepest griefs and longings to the page; and Jane Yolen's Take Joy approach, in which you write for (yes, what a concept!) the love of it.

I tend to think they're on a continuum, and the place you choose for yourself along that path is your truth. The rest is an illusion--the thing the Advaitins call "maya." The illusory part when you write is that prewriting, throat-clearing bit you do before, during, and sometimes even after you have found the story. It's your mind getting in the way, trying to edit and fix and refine prematurely. It results in things like tentative language, characters hemming and hawing and refusing to take action, or action that's so over-the-top it distracts from the truth of the work. More reason to keep your eye on the horizon. The preliminary draft steps are important, but when I'm writing those drafts I need to remind myself that I have farther to go.


  1. Uma,

    When are you going to write your own book about writing. This is a beautiful post; I look forward to much more of it on this blog!


  2. Thank you Pooja. I don't know about a book (I already have about 6 of those knocking at my window demanding to be let in). Among other things, though, I plan to use this blog as a tool to help clarify my thoughts about writing process.