Writers of the wave

The following paragraph is from a proposal I submitted to the organizers of the 2014 annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (see the Talks page for details). The ideas are those of Steve Heller, past president of AWP and the chair of the MFA in creative writing at the LA campus of Antioch University.

This panel challenges the traditional model of writing as building a house, replacing it with a more fluid conception of the writing process. This alternative conception sees the writer not as an architect or carpenter but as a freer agent in a more fluid medium—and regards the work not as a fixed, unchanging structure but one constantly being rebuilt.  

Heller was the first to conceive of the wave as a metaphor for the work of fiction writers, poets, and essayists. In the paper he presented at this year's Hawaii International Conference on Arts and Humanities, he said

[T]he analogy of creative writing (in the very broad sense I mentioned earlier, which includes the reader) as wave riding can apply to all genres. The essence of poetry, for example, is the artificially broken line. A poetic line can be regular, metrical, its rhythm fixed. A line of verse can also be as free and risky as a rogue wave that rises behind your back and threatens to trample you in its wake.

Prose rhythms are more difficult to see but just as easy to hear—or feel—on the page.  Their undulations are usually much longer, demanding more stamina from writer and reader, just like the rides we take on them, until at last they climactically break around or perhaps over us near the distant shore.  Along the way, like the ocean itself, stories breathe.