All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center: lighthousewriters.org
Writing is hard enough without having a metaphor maniac derail the process. Since discovering Lighthouse last year, I have taken a handful of memoir and personal narrative workshops with Harrison Fletcher and Shari Caudron while trying to figure out what I want to write about and in what form. While I haven’t quite resolved the “what”, my fellow work shoppers have noticed that, regardless of my topic, many metaphors appear in my writing. Didn’t I put them there? Perhaps not. It is as if there is a little maniac in my brain, gleefully and perhaps mindlessly cranking them out – the good, the banal and the ugly – without much thought as to how these metaphors work together or relate to the piece as a whole.
As I write, I am realizing that the metaphor my maniac just created isn’t quite accurate. What actually happens is that I sit fixated in front of my computer screen, my fingers hovering above the keyboard while my imagination – hijacked by the maniac – travels far and wide in search of an exact image to paint for the reader. In this trancelike state, I can easily forget about the passage of time and, sometimes, the overall trajectory of the essay or chapter. And so again and again, despite nobler intentions, I am often frantically typing the final paragraphs just hours before the deadline, trying to bring some cohesion to the assorted and occasionally mixed metaphors scattered around the page. They are like bowls of nuts at a party, strategically situated to keep folks nibbling and hanging around while they secretly wish that better food and other guests will appear. Fortunately at Lighthouse, the instructors and my workshop mates are not satisfied by these snacks; they want a main course (and some beer to wash it all down) and they are not easily fooled.
They are also kind. For example, in a recent essay I tried to describe the approach of a storm in the Rockies. My metaphor maniac likened clouds to grey cotton candy run amok, and the workshop gently informed me, as if they were sharing some disappointing news with a young child, that cotton candy does not…um…run. Oops.
There is, however, some consolation. If Elizabeth Gilbert, best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love can credit her genius for her writing successes, it is only fair for me to hold my metaphor maniac responsible for some of my writing flops. Really, I had very little to do with it.