From Words Are My Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin:
"Gary Snyder gave us the image of experience as compost. Compost is stuff, junk, garbage, anything, that's turned to dirt by sitting around a while. It involves silence, darkness, time, and patience. From compost, whole gardens grow.
"It can be useful to think of writing as gardening. You plant the seeds, but each plant will take its own way and shape. The gardener's in control, yes; but plants are living, willful things. Every story has to find its own way to the light. Your great tool as a gardener is your imagination.
"Young writers often think -- are taught to think -- that a story starts with a message. That is not my experience. What's important when you start is simply this: you have a story you want to tell. A seedling that wants to grow. Something in your inner experience is forcing itself towards the light. Attentively and carefully and patiently, you can encourage that, let it happen. Don't force it; trust it. Watch it, water it, let it grow.
"As you write a story, if you can let it become itself, tell itself fully and truly, you may discover what its really about, what it says, why you wanted to tell it. It may be a surprise to you. You may have thought you planted a dahlia, and look what came up, an eggplant! Fiction is not information transmission; it is not message-sending. The writing of fiction is endlessly surprising to the writer.
"Like a poem, a story says what it has to say it the only way it can be said, and that is the exact words of the story itself. Why is why the words are so important, why it takes so long to learn how to get the words right. Why you need silence, darkness, time, patience, and a real solid knowledge of English vocabulary and grammar.
"Truthful imagining from experience is recognizable, shared by its readers."
I urge you to read Le Guin's lovely essay in full. You'll find it here in Words Are My Matter, from the good folks at Small Beer Press.
Words: The passage above is from "Making Up Stories," published in Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life & Books by Ursula K. Le Guin (Small Beer Press, 2016); all rights reserved by the author's estate. The poem in the picture captions is from Circles on the Water by Marge Piercy (Knopf, 1988), all rights reserved by the author.
Pictures: Corray Farm on Scotland's west coast, near Glenelg, photographed on a trip up to the Hebrides three years ago. (Gracious, has it really been that long?) Pictured here are the farm's polytunnels (with the tiny figures of Charles Vess, Karen Shaffer, Irene Gallo and Greg Manchess), its turf-roofed office, Howard reading in the yurt cafe, and the four-footed welcoming committee. Some day we'll all be able to travel again...and I would very much love to do so in the same company.