In Bits and Pieces: Writing My Way to Understanding

The world doesn’t fully make sense until the writer has secured his version of it on the page.
~ from The Forest for the Trees, by Betsy Lerner

PuzzleThere it is, my reason for writing. So much of what I scratch down on paper stays hidden within the pages of my journals, becomes buried in early drafts, or gets lost in multiple files of stories. I could beat myself up about wasted paper and ink, or hot air, that pours out before anything good comes to fruition, but all that writing is of value.

Put numbers to it, and I can see writing and math in a similar light. Your formula begins with a mess of numbers, all splayed out on the chalkboard. The numbers are figured and re-configured, compared and cancelled out until, finally, down in the corner of the board, just before you run out of space, the numbers fall into place. The answer becomes clear, so you circle it. Twice. Because man, it feels good when you get to the end of the problem.

We write to make sense of our world. And, as Pam Parker says in an essay she wrote this week, everything we do, feel, learn, shoulder – whether we like it or not – works its way from the folds of our minds into the details on the page. Sometimes those experiences fall as a whole onto the paper, sometimes they appear in bits and pieces.

The same could be said for any artist, whether he matches colors with emotion or sets the lighting in a photograph or smooths pieces of clay into place. However it happens (in whatever form) when something new is created, another view of the world comes into focus.

Why do you write or paint or create?

* Photo credit: liza31337 on Flickr.com

Christi

About Christi

Christi Craig is a native Texan living in Wisconsin, working by day as a sign language interpreter and moonlighting as a writer, teacher, and editor. Her stories and essays have appeared online and in print, and she received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train's Family Matters Contest, 2010. You can send comments or questions via her contact page.
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12 Responses to In Bits and Pieces: Writing My Way to Understanding

  1. Victoria says:

    “So much of what I scratch down on paper stays hidden within the pages of my journals, becomes buried in early drafts, or gets lost in multiple files of stories.”

    There’s becoming lost and hidden and discarded and there’s refining. Everyday before I get to writing in earnest I sit at my scratch pad, a heavy document of misspellings and frantic passion, and write my frustrations through, ask myself questions about the story I’m working on, and “talk” to myself on the screen. It gets deleted eventually, but my stories wouldn’t exist at all if it weren’t for the chaff.

    I agree with Pam, for regular life is our most valuable tool.

    And I’m so glad to have your views of the world, Christi. XO

    • Christi Christi says:

      Victoria, The “chaff”, I love that. And, asking myself questions about the story — that’s something I keep forgetting. Thanks for the reminder.

      PS. double xo

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  3. Pam Parker says:

    I am so honored to be included in this lovely post! “We write to make sense of our world.” Yes! And, like you, and Victoria, I have those journals, or as Victoria calls them, “scratch pads,” and they are full of bits and pieces. I also really connected with your puzzle picture, because in the first draft of my novel, I often thought of it as a jigsaw. Once I had a good feel for the four corners, I could work on the middle. 🙂

    Thank you again for a beautiful post.

    • Christi Christi says:

      Pam, Your post just fit here 🙂 I also appreciate you bringing in the idea of getting a feel for the corners of a story in order to navigate the murky middle with success. I’m logging that advice!

  4. Dave Thome says:

    I don’t know, Christi. Whenever I don’t write I feel worse. That must make it an addiction.

  5. Beth Hoffman says:

    Terrific post, Christi! This is so true –> “Sometimes those experiences fall as a whole onto the paper, sometimes they appear in bits and pieces.”

    Lately I’m finding I love the pieces just as much, and sometimes more so, than the whole.

  6. I was just reading Betsy’s book today. This quote hit me like a ton of bricks:

    “People are motivated to write for a variety of reasons, but it’s the child writer who has figured out, early on, that writing is about saving your soul.” pg. 60 of The Forest For The Trees

    As a child, I wrote in my diary and made lists of what I wanted to do and be when I grew up. I did it because I dreamt of a different life.

    Now, like a child again in the infancy of my writing career, I write because it feeds my soul. Saving me in the process.

    • Christi Christi says:

      Oh Hallie, I love that quote, too. There’s so much great stuff in Lerner’s book. I’m almost half way through it. Too bad we don’t live closer. I’d love to discuss it all over coffee!

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