letters to a fiction writerI’ve been going through papers from different writer’s conferences and writing workshops I’ve attended over the years, and I found a short excerpt from a book called Letters to a Fiction Writer. I don’t think this advice is just for fiction writers, but for anyone who has something they need to express creatively. See what you think.


The … fiction writer–you–carries a burden of sorts. You are lugging something around that seems to be part of your being, or, as we would say now, is ‘hard wired’ into you, so much so that you have become its container, but the only way to express it–almost literally, to bring it out–is to write it. What ‘it’ is, in this case, is a piling-up of selves, of beings, and of stories that are being experienced from the inside. What is it like to be you, to be me? You can’t answer that question by answering it discursively. You can only answer it by telling a story. That’s not therapy. You’re not sick. You’re just a certain kind of human being. It’s exactly like the necessity the musician has in humming a tune or playing a piano, or the necessity as artist has in doodling and sketching and drawing and painting. It’s almost involuntary. Something needs to get out. Not expressed but extruded. As the composer Camille Saint-Saens remarked, ‘I write music the way an apple tree produces apples.’

—-Charles Baxter from Letters to A Fiction Writer, edited by Frederick Busch, W.W. Norton, 1999.


Does this short passage resonate with you? I love the quote by Camille Saint-Saens. What would happen if we all did whatever creative endeavor calls us “the way an apple tree produces apples”?

Try it. Even if it’s for just an hour. Write an old fashioned letter to a friend, dance around your kitchen, hum a song that is yours to sing. Tell your story in whatever medium makes sense to you. If you do, you may find a spark of purpose that you didn’t have before. xo

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