Burning bridges and saving the pieces.

I would like to dedicate this post to the book that really inspired the writer in me to stop hiding and write, and also to one of my favorite authors:

Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine

Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine

Some of you may say, “Really?  Gail Carson Levine?  The writer of Ella Enchanted and Fairest?  Not Harper Lee, not John Steinbeck, not Mark Twain, but humble Gail Carson Levine?”  Well, yes.  As much as I love the greats, and as much as they have affected me and my writing and my reading, I think that Mrs. Levine and this particular book have more personal significance.  I read it in middle school, and in doing so I learned the two most important things about writing that have carried over into real life as well:

1. Writing is putting a piece of you on paper.  A piece of you!  It’s difficult, scary, nothing can make you happier than getting it right, and nothing can irritate you more than getting it wrong.

2. Everything you write, just like everything you do, is worth something.  Maybe not a lot.  Maybe you have to really think about it to figure it out, but there is worth there.  Don’t destroy things you write!  Levine recommends you wait fifteen years, and then if you still want to throw away something you wrote, you can— but don’t do it lightly.  We shouldn’t discredit anything we do too eagerly— everything can be learned from.

Now, nowhere in the book does it say either of those things word for word.  But at the time, and even now, those were things that I had not really thought about, and it was a very good thing that I found them in between the chapters of this book.

I’m not going to write a full-out review on this novel, and I’m not going to post endless quotes from it or anything like that.  I will summarize it by saying it is choc-full of wonderful advice for writing, primarily fiction but other kinds of writing too.  It has suggestions of how to organize your ideas, working with plots/characters, and examples of how Levine works out tough problems as well as lots of fun prompts that help get your imagination started.  I encourage you to read it if you have ever thought about writing anything.  And I will leave you with one quote, which is one of my favorites and I think explains a lot about growing up and being careful with what we create.

“When you become a teenager, you step onto a bridge. You may already be on it. The opposite shore is adulthood. Childhood lies behind. The bridge is made of wood. As you cross, it burns behind you.

“If you save what you write, you still won’t be able to cross back to childhood.  But you’ll be able to see yourself in that lost country.  You’ll be able to wave to yourself across that wide river.”

I’d like to add that I think that sometimes we cross similar rivers between different periods of our lives.  I already feel a little like a bridge is burning between college-me and high-school-me.  It’s important not to completely black out our old selves, just as important as it is to be willing to move on and become something new.  We are the continuation of ourselves, not just whatever we are for a few  years.  It’s a good idea to hold on to a little bit of childhood, a little bit of high school, a little bit of college.  The best part is that we can pick what we hold on to!  We can keep the good stuff and learn from the bad stuff without letting it weigh us down.  So remember to think twice before throwing out something you created.  After all, that’s like throwing away a piece of you, and the result of doing that too quickly and too often can’t be good.

Sincerely,

Torrence Nightingale

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