Narrative Genesis and Imagination

This Saturday evening, I’ll be giving a new craft lecture, “Narrative Genesis and Imagination” at Interlochen Center for the Arts at 5pm in The Writing House. A handful of The Writing Life readers out there actually live nearby, so perhaps we’ll meet! For friends and readers from afar, I thought I’d share a snippet of my intentions for this presentation on my blog.When I talk about “narrative genesis,” my intention is to point your attention to the place where story begins. That “place,” however, is largely ephemeral and deeply person. Why write a craft lecture about that? Furthermore, doesn’t talking about it, kill it?

Yes and no. As a teacher, I consider it my duty to bring awareness to my creative process and share what I learn with others. It makes me a better teacher, because if I can name what’s working (and what’s not working) for myself, in the very least I can articulate that to others who might see a parallel. And at the very best–which I encounter more often than not–it can spark conversation between artists that inspires, informs, and leaves each participant involved feeling a little more sure about where their work comes from and how to nurture it so that it keeps on coming.

When I talk about “imagination” in the context of “narrative genesis,” what I’m interested in is the millisecond occurrence between that first birth of story and that next, imaginative leap. This is where things start to get really intangible. But if we can articulate the sensation, the series of events, or the balancing factors in our lives that precipitate and encourage that leap, we might be able to replicate it. Again and again. Not “replicate” in terms of copy, but replicate in terms of generate.

In short, the more we nurture the foundation of narrative genesis and imagination, the stronger, deeper, and more consistent our output as artists can be. That doesn’t mean everything that comes out will be glorious, but it does mean that–to a certain extent–we never have to worry about not knowing what to write. Ever. Again. We have trust in our process. We can dance around where it starts. We can even, sometimes, seduce the process into action on the spot and let narrative unfold from the confidence we’ve gained through practice and insight.

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