For a previous WordPress photo challenge (Object), I posted
I don’t know why. I’d already picked out several shots I liked better, such as
either of which is more interesting than books on chairs.
But at the last minute the books jumped out and said, Pick me! So I did. I was later appalled at how foolish the photo looked in comparison to those other bloggers posted.
On the other hand, considered as geometric shapes–two right triangles formed from a rectangle, their common hypotenuse composed of mysteries–the picture assumes a significance bordering on the semi-artistic.
Had I cropped more precisely, or had I posted before midnight, I might have observed that before now. But probably not.
You see, I didn’t discover the books formed a hypotenuse by studying the photograph. I saw it while composing this post. I wrote the word diagonal to describe the line of books, and suddenly saw triangles.
In other words, I didn’t know what I knew until I’d written it.
It sounds backward, especially to people who’ve been told they must outline before they write. Which is practically everyone who passed through an English class before the process theory taught by Donald Murray, Ken Macrorie, Peter Elbow, and other teachers was widely recognized. Writing as process allows students to use language to discover what they know and think before they try to organize.
(Ironically, most of those early outliners could have told their teachers that outlining with an empty head doesn’t work.)
When Gertrude Stein says writers have the daily miracle, this must be what she means: allowing language to lead, using the hand to stimulate the mind, being surprised by your own creation, discovering yourself through words you’ve written.
Thinking with a pen, or a keyboard, in hand works for anyone willing to put words on paper or pixels on a monitor.
Results vary, of course.
Stephen King starts writing and ends up with The Shining.