The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

On the Rebound

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There was a time when I lived for Basketball, when I loved it more than I now love baseball.  I had good cause:  everything I held sacred in the basketball universe was bouncing in my direction:  The Detroit Pistons were bruising their way to back-to-back championships, Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers were on the rise, Bob Knight was still commanding the Indiana Hoosiers, and my own Ball State Cardinals were dominating the Mid-American Conference and surging past the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament.  I knew as much about basketball then as I know about baseball now, hence I understand the importance of rebounding.  Christian Laettner, Larry Johnson, and Chris Webber were dominant rebounders in the college ranks, while the likes of Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, and Patrick Ewing all ruled the boards in what I consider the Golden Age of the NBA.  Grabbing the boards, clearing the glass…  whatever you call it, rebounding is a sine qua non to every successful team because it allows you to control the game.  Little did I know twenty years ago that I would not only be summoning the spirits of legendary rebounders to inspire my writing, but that I would drop their names as I created a sentimental, self-indulgent lead-in to a blog post about something I’m writing…

…because I’m Rebounding right now.

It started three weeks ago when I was flipping through my journal and came across a short story I started writing last June.  It has sat there unfinished, though I knew what I wanted to do with it.  I backed off it after a few days of energetic scribbling because it started to feel derivitive of something a student of mine had written a few weeks earlier.  I didn’t think much about cutting it loose, either.  I did make some use of it when I referenced it in a thinly-veiled piece of meta-fiction I wrote later in the summer, but that was it.  It was fine with me that the story was dead.  I didn’t feel any pangs of guilt like I have with other pieces; the practice of writing it was enough for me since I was (am) working on my fiction skills.  But then I took another look at it three weeks ago and saw some sparkle in it.

I think now that I can finish the story by establishing the right context for it.  I liked that I had a narrator with a unique–though unsavory–voice.  She relays some pretty damning information about herself, and I remember feeling satisfied developing that voice as I wrote the story.  My issue, though, became one of logic.  People don’t usually spout off stories that make themselves look shabby; at least not most “normal” people.  So I figured out a plausible way to make her abnormal.  I started to rewrite, but I still wasn’t feeling it because the voice that drove the story was diminishing by the paragraph.  I had to find a way to preserve it; I had to find a way to let her talk honestly about herself in a setting in which it was logical to do so, and in which she was comfortable doing so.  That reminded me that Oscar Wilde was right:  Setting is everything.  How interesting it was to finally hear myself say that after I have said it to my Creative Writing students ad infinitum.

So I thought of a setting that works for what I want.  To preserve her voice, though, I have to let another character tell her story, which means I’ll be using a frame narrative.

Finally, there’s something else that I tell my Creative Writing students (actually, I plead with them about this):  Never throw away your writing.  No matter how sucky your first attempt is, never throw it away.  You don’t have to show it to anybody, but you should never throw it away.  You never know when you might come back to it with a different set of eyes and take it in a different direction.  That’s how writers score rebounds for themselves.

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Written by seeker70

January 7, 2011 at 7:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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