From painter, cartoonist, writer Lynda Barry’s funny, entertaining, instructive writing guide/memoir What It Is.
There are certain children who are told they are too sensitive, and there are certain adults who believe sensitivity is a problem that can be fixed in the way crooked teeth can be fixed and made straight. And when these two come together you get a fairy tale, a kind of story with hopelessness in it.
On writing, fairy tales and myths:
Fairy tales and myths are often about this very thing (writer’s block). They begin sometimes with this very situation: a dead kingdom.
In a myth or a fairy tale, one doesn’t restore the kingdom by passivity, nor can it be done by force. It can’t be done by logic or thought. So how can it be done?
Monsters and dangerous tasks seem to part of it. Courage and terror and failure or what seems like failure, and then hopelessness and the approach of death convincingly.
The happy ending is hardly important, though we may be glad it’s there. The real joy is knowing that if you felt the trouble in the story, your kingdom isn’t dead.
Do you wish you could write fiction?
The best way to find a story is to…start with an image.
The best way to find an image is to…start with a word.
An image is a thought, a memory, a location of an experience.
It’s a good place to start, memory, because once you know what real images feel like, it’s easier to recognize that sensation when writing.
It will work for anyone who has any kind of curiosity about writing or remembering. Especially people who always wanted to write but were too confused about how to even start.
These excerpts from the book do not capture Barry’s creative delivery of her story and ideas or the joy I experienced reading it. Please, please, please pick up this book if you ever wanted or had an inkling to write fiction. I guarantee it will get you started.