Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Notes on Crafting a Life

Crafting a Life in Essay, Story, PoemCrafting a Life in Essay, Story, Poem
by Donald Morison Murray

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book and it had a few really great phrases in it. Murray has a wonderful way of putting things. 
"I am happiest when I am rubbing two words together to produce an unexpected insight, when i feel the sentence turn under my hand, the paragraph shrink or rise until it breaks in two, the narrative flow toward rapids I can hear but do not yet see." (p.5) 
The phrase "rubbing two words together" is so evocative. It really gets the point across that the writer is working to create something.

"I plan and outline, note and predraft in my daybook, in which I paste pages printed out from my computer that I may want to edit, quotes from writers, pictures, poems, whatever helps in the conversation i carry on with myself about what and how I write. I call it a daybook because when I call it a journal I begin to write pompous blather." (p. 20)

The way that he uses this spiral 8x10 notebook (he was on his 92nd one when he wrote this book) seems really useful as does the notion that a writer is conversing with himself (or herself). I also love the self-awareness!
"I once sat in a workshop with short-story writer Becky Rule, both a magnificent writer and an extraordinary teacher of writing. She is coauthor with Susan Wheeler of Creating the Story. Rule demonstrated how, as soon as she wrote the first sentence, strict rules were established  for a particular story. Her first sentence, a typical Becky Rule beginning, was: 'When I mention small potatoes, I am certainly not referring to my opponent's manly parts.'" (p. 98) 
Murray is absolutely right about the magnificence of Becky Rule, and now I have another book for my ever-growing-to-be-read list. Murray's book also includes an extensive annotated bibliography of titles from his "library of craft" which has yet more books I may want to read. This quote is part of a larger discussion about the beginning line of a work setting its parameters which I hadn't thought about before but which seems very clear from his examples. From Rule's one sentence 8 different facts are established that will guide the rest of the story.

Finally, what may be the best quote about poetry I have ever come across: "Poetry is the bouillion cube of literature; meaning is compressed so that it will boil up in the reader's mind when it is read." (p. 101)

This book was a Book of the Week feature on my "work" blog earlier this year.

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