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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Intervening Events

I have a long standing belief in a writing concept I call “intervening events.”   The idea is that a work—any work at all: academic paper, short story, letter to the editor, blog post, manifesto, etc.—changes in some substantial way every time the writer stops writing. As in, being done for the day, and returning at a later point.

See, everything that happens from the time the last word of one writing session to the beginning of the next impacts the writer in ways—some subtle, some profound—that will alter the narrative. It’s not a bad thing—in fact, I tell my students to never turn in a paper that was done in one shot. Things need to distill, simmer, develop, and refine. But when it comes to factual retellings and the conveyance of raw emotion, intervening events tend to temper the realism. Anger subsides, excitement fades, and details are fleeting. Indeed, research shows that we're wired to invent happy endings to even the scariest episodes of our life story. It's a gift, really, wired into our DNA as a way to soften the edges of our raw experience to create a polished sense of meaning. I'm OK with that, although I'd submit, from a literary stance that the beat writers, and, certain James Thurber works embraced clunky stream of conscious prose as an attempt to preserve some semblance of raw emotion in our collective writings.

So as I send the post out into the void in an attempt to resume the sharing of my life and times with anyone who may be reading, I must be clear that my story has morphed and changed. I, once again, live in a full house. I decided not to quit my MFA program (although it occurs to me at this point that the episode when I quit was, itself, an "intervening event."). My weight loss has been successful beyond my wildest dreams. And I am about to head once again to Haiti. My telling of how these events came to be is different today that it would have been at earlier points. Some of the stories aren’t even mine to tell. But everything that has happened since my last post has brought me to the present, and a chapter I am ready to record in a more immediate way.


So I suppose all of this is just to say…”hi, I’m back…it’s been awhile.” Catch me up--what events have invented in your life during the interim?

3 comments:

Lisa said...

I am glad to see you are back blogging!

George Vacca said...

Hi Cindy! Great concept - "intervening events." It is one of those great truths that needed to be pointed out to me. I also practice the "distil" concept of writing and then putting it away for a few days...only I call it "marinate."

Ol' Soldier

Cynthia Davis said...

I am not sure how or when I first developed this idea, but I am sure it had to do with seeing how my perceptions change each time I return to a piece of work. Sometimes it's a good thing, like in fiction writing when you're stymied by a plot issue and then put it aside and go for a walk, go to a museum, overhear a conversation that sparks a nuance you never would have imagined otherwise. I have a manuscript I've been working on since 2002, and another one from 2000. If either are ever complete, it will be interesting to see if either resemble the original concept at all!

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