For four years, National Public Radio ran a series called, "This I Believe," in which people generously offered the personal beliefs and core values that guided their daily lives.
It's a fascinating exercise, not only for examining your life, but for unearthing the underpinnings of your writing. This past weekend, poet Brian Teare asked a room full of writers to carry out this exercise for their particular genre--poetry, fiction or nonfiction.
What are the implicit aesthetic principles that make you write one thing and not another? You believe you should rarely, if ever, use adverbs-why? What's the source of this belief? Do you still believe it? Can you wrench open that belief again and reexamine it? You believe that at some point in a short story, the main character must change. But what about Denis Johnson's "Car Crash While Hitchhiking"? Or Virginia Woolf's "Kew Gardens"?
I really love this exercise because it has the potential of dismantling what might be a crusty old writing process. It allows for implicit assumptions to be made explicit, thereby leading (potentially) to the thrill of risk-taking, to being a better reader, and a better writer.
Causes Nina Schuyler Supports
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