As writers, our imaginations are generally large by necessity and by nature. We imagine big ideas and try to transfer them into story form in one way or another. In my experience, story ideas start out large and expansive. Those big imaginations churn out big ideas and the challenge that we, as writers, face is to transform those into writing in a way that is pleasing and grammatically correct.
Today’s bit of advice comes from Susan Sontag, whose various pieces of advice were featured on the Brainpickings website. One of her quotes reads, “Writing is a little door. Some fantasies, like big pieces of furniture, won’t come through.” I found this quote fascinating because it’s something that I have experience before when trying to write. Sometimes I find that ideas look differently in my head then they do on the page and I believe it’s because of this “little door” that Sontag talks about. For all of our imagination, writers are constrained by language, grammar, genres, and reader preference.
With all of these things in our minds as we write, it can be difficult to get those big, imaginative ideas through. I like this quote and I think that Sontag has a good point. But, I also think that the little door can be widened at times, especially in the preliminary, first draft stages of writing. At that point, you can let some of the grammatical and genre-specific constraints go and just let your imagination run wild. At that stage, I think it’s possible to get those big ideas through the little door.
However, the door needs to be tightened up again when you get to the editing stage. Eventually those big, imaginative ideas will need to be pared down to fit through the little door and come out the other end looking like a strong, solid draft of a story.
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan