From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction, by Robert Olen Butler, ed. Janet Burroway

From the Introduction:

Some time in the early 1980's, the playwright Maria Irene Fornes came to Florida State University to conduct a series of workshops. I had already been teaching writing for a decade and had published a book on Writing Fiction, and I was disconcerted, not to say traumatized, by her methods. She had us do calisthenics, pair up and draw portraits of each other, imagine the insides of our stomachs and set play scenes there. At the end of the last session, I told her, "I've spent twenty years understanding my process, and you're asking me to change it entirely."

Fornes bounced her palms at the air. "You must always keep changing your process!" she declared. "Because there are two of you, one who wants to write and one who doesn't. The one who wants to write has to keep fooling the one who doesn't."

I have taken her advice to heart and have tried to keep changing—expanding, twisting, tricking—my writing process, but the truth is that only two teachers have radically changed it for me. One was Fornes, and the other is Robert Olen Butler, who joined the FSU faculty in 2000 as Eppes Professor of Creative Writing. Butler's method is largely lecture, his students do not draw, dance, or gather in small groups; yet his teaching, like Fornes', offers a door into the unconscious where fiction lies.

© Janet Burroway. All Rights Reserved.