As a writer and someone who writes about writing (insert obligatory “dancing about architecture”-type comment here), there are two things that I tend to worry about more often than all the other things I worry about: repetition and focus.
This applies to my fiction writing as well as whatever half-baked principles and ideas about writing I may spout off. (Just kidding; all my ideas are fully baked.) Case in point: in one of my fiction workshops in graduate school, when my story was up for discussion, a friend of mine* started off by saying “this has the trifecta of a Jeffrey Ricker story: love, longing, and loss.” As the discussion went on, I missed a few things because I kept wondering, wait, is this story a retread? Am I just writing the same thing over and over?
It was a different story from all the others I’d submitted that year—different characters, plots, settings—but as I mentally scrolled through my pile of stories for that class, it was true. I was writing about people longing for other people, losing other people, and loving and unloving other people.
Love, longing, loss. Surely there’s more to the world than that, isn’t there? On the other hand, those three things count for a lot, don’t they?
When I sit down to write a blog entry or a letter to you about writing—about the things I think about when it comes to writing—at some point in the process I usually flip back through the last few entries/letters I’ve written to confirm that I’m not rewriting the same thing I sent a month or three months (or six months) earlier. And sometimes, while it’s not word for word the same letter I sent, the topics and the points are… well, familiar.
photo by Matthew Hamilton, Unsplash