Writing to Discover


Out in the woods the other day, what did I come upon? Bear scat. I was completely surprised, thought I knew what I was seeing, got down on the ground for a closer look. Yes, bear shit, I was sure. That was last Thursday. That was on the east side of Jacks Peak Park, not so very far from where I once saw bear a few hills away, but far enough. This morning on the west side of the park, more bear scat. Wait A Minute. There are no bears here. There are no bears in this park. Bears in Big Sur, maybe. The occasional lost bear who walks into a bar, maybe. But not here in so many years might as well not ever been here.

IMG_0051This is what writing is. That kind of surprise. You walk into your story or your poem armed with only a pen and a piece of clean paper, and you can’t know what you’re going to find. You might find a bear. Write to discover and not to prove what you already know. I wrote a whole book that way and found I knew more than I ever could have dreamed I did.

E. L. Doctorow said, “Write in order to find out what you’re writing.” And walk in order to find out who else walks where you do.