Essaying

I’m having fun with the essay. It’s perfect for me right now. There are a few different parts of writing that I love. One of them is dreaming up new stories and taking the dictation. The other is working with the words on the page. Word by word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence. How it goes is endlessly fascinating to me, and making sentence parts and paragraphs move smoother is a lovely challenge.

So right now in my writing life there’s the big picture: a whole novel unfolding, and the little picture, just one thing to say and a few smart and shiny words to say it in. Today, while the big picture rests, I’m cutting and shaping the little picture down from 700, then 500, to 350 words. It absorbs me. Thrillingly.  

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  1. Hey Cindy,
    How are you!?
    Glad you’re having fun with essays. I like the idea of “cutting and shaping” down to 350 words. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and is a satisfying challenge. I like to tell my own workshop students that good short essays are like haiku — powerful emotion honed down to a few perfectly chosen words. I love to read haiku, and am always amazed at how much beauty is packed into three short lines …. 5-7-5.

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  2. Cindy, I cannot wait to take one of your classes. I want to write a personal essay every week here on the blog, something NOT about writing, but about my domestic life or relationships or whatever. And I’m finding it difficult indeed. I’m interested in personality conflicts, but writing about it feels like a violation of whoever I’ve had the conflict with…especially putting it on the internet! I will try the “powerful [personal] emotion honed down” approach next time. Thanks!

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  3. Hi Cindy — I’d love to take one of your classes too … and would be honored to see you in one of mine. In your response, you mention writing essays about personality conflicts — how hard it is. I agree. There’s an essay in Writing Home called “Black Holes” — about getting along with difficult people. It ran as a newspaper column, originally, and I really worried about offending certain people when it was published — especially since it talked about the back-stabbing moms we run into at our kids’ schools. I ended up glazing over some of the real details, which I probably wouldn’t have done had the piece not been so public….

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