Response to Kim Bridgford’s Post
It’s quite obvious that Kim Bridgford’s post struck a nerve with a lot of people. I was very impressed with the response from so many of you. Yes, I think that the structure and shape of a work is something that comes to all of us — whether poet, nonfiction or fiction writer — in different ways, but the common denominator, I think, is that each creative work has its own blueprint, its own DNA shape hidden within. I won’t suggest the old notion that a sculptor working a piece of stone simply chisels away until the work appears from the stone. But I will say, at least in my own experience, that each work has its own rhythms, its own potential for growth and evolution, its own “path” within the mind/heart that conceived it. Now, many times that evolution changes, and the writer sees a different shape from the one he/she originally conceived. In the past I’ve alternated between, on the one hand, seeing a novel as a house being built (that is, no doubt, the result of being the son of a carpenter) or seeing it as something akin to a plant unfolding toward the sun. One suggests a logical and external building of a work board by board and nail by nail; the other the natural and highly romantic notion of something organic simply growing out itself (or the writer’s subconscious). But each extreme analogy seems limited to me, and ultimately, untrue. Now I tend to see — at least the writing of a novel — as, to use Kim’s word, a “journey.” I tell students writing a novel that it is like planning to climb a mountain, something that will be demanding, long, dangerous, and filled with uncertainty, but also filled with excitement and passion. You begin with a plan, but very quickly learn that along the way, that plan has to be modified, or even abandoned. There are deadends, detours, wrong paths, but ultimately you sense that the top of the mountain is above somewhere, and you keep pushing forward, trying to find it.
We will have another faculty post shortly. I hope we can continue the dialogue the MFA community has begun about writing.