Slice of Life: Writing as Exploration


“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”
E.L. Doctorow

This quote is perfect and true.

Over a year ago, I began writing a story about a girl who falls out of a tree and breaks her arm. When I started writing, I didn’t know much more than that. I didn’t even know why she was in the tree in the first place. But that didn’t stop me. I kept writing and have learned much about this girl.

Then, last spring, I got sidetracked by another idea. All my writing energy went into this new project. However, as it often does, life intervened and both projects have been on the back burner for a few months.

Now, though, I feel ready to move on. I’m curious about what’s going on with this girl. More than a year later, she still has her arm in a cast. Surely that bone must be healed by now!

So yesterday I just started writing. I had no plan, no idea what what was going on with this character. But, true to Doctorow’s words, I figured it out (or at least got a better idea). It turned out that she wanted to make popcorn balls. So we made popcorn balls. This endeavor wasn’t completely successful, as the sugar and molasses tasted slightly burned. But the process of making this old family recipe revealed priceless details that I’d long forgotten.


Who knows what lies ahead for this character, or if this scene will end up as part of her story. I have an idea of how events will go, but I don’t know for sure. And that’s why I love Doctorow’s quote. I don’t have to know. I’ll figure it out. All I have to do is keep writing.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

13 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Writing as Exploration

  1. thinking about writing a story too. I’m glad you wrote this because I am scared that I won’t finish, or it won’t be good, but who cares? it’ll be a test for me 🙂 thanks for sending along some courage (and a reminder that I’m not on a timeline!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You don’t have to know, just to write. I’m happy to hear that you got that girl going with other things, and you’ve already made me want to know more, Catherine. Lovely to have the time to pursue this. The quote is perfect, isn’t it? Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so glad you are back to Ellie’s story. I needed to write today to discover what I want my OLW for 2016 to be. I’ve been so wrapped up in goals for writing that I think I have lost the true reason for it. To be present in the moment. You are discovering this, too. I look forward to reading your latest addition to the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m connecting with those popcorn balls that you made. My mom rarely made them, but we often made them on Sunday afternoons at Aunt Edna’s house. And we also sometimes made pulled taffy and old fashioned fudge (not marshmallow cream). Love how you had not plan, but figured it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love Ellie’s story. I’m delighted you’re returning to it, Catherine.

    “See” you on the 10th. Until then, HAPPY NEW YEAR! As Terje said today, may your 2016 be filled with “health, peace and beautiful surprises.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Catherine, I totally understand the statement that life intervenes and pulls away from our intended plan. This has happened to me so many times in life but then I heard an important statement this summer. The priest at the beach mass said it is not our plan but God’s plan. I hold on to that wisdom. May your storyline develop as you see fit. I look forward to hearing more about it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s