If you want to know what novelistic intelligence is you might compare a page or two of Hilary Mantel’s work with worthy historical fiction by Peter Ackyrod or Susan Sontag. They are intelligent but they are not novelistically intelligent. –Andrea Barrett, “Dust,” the Paris Review, 209, Summer, 2014
Why “one perfectly chosen detail works better than an army of dutifully transcribed facts.” Advice we cannot hear too often as we struggle to write the compelling story, the portrait, the poem.
My dog Ben isn’t the brightest bulb but he knows what he wants. Even if he can’t have it (two balls at one catch!) he enjoys getting close.. like my writing practice, getting almost to the place I’m aiming for: chasing one or another delight or fear or obsession.
Writing is like that. Find a pleasure or an itch and scratch it until it doesn’t itch anymore. Then find something else to scratch, to pursue. There are so many wonders out there. So many wounds in need of healing scabs.
The main thing: write. Free yourself to discover. They say dogs don’t smile. Look closely at my pit-pointer. Ben may not be smiling but he looks content: almost achieving his dream of two-balls at one catch.