THE RIVER: Thoughts on Writing as Reflection versus Replication

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It was one of those crisp November days we get here in New Jersey and the reflection in the river was amazing – so detailed it seemed I could see each leaf still dangling from the trees lining the other bank.  The old boathouse, too, seemed a perfect replication of reality.  I couldn’t stop looking.

But as I gazed in wonder, I noticed it wasn’t a perfect reflection.  The moving river created tiny ripples that made the reflection shimmer. The walls of the reflected boathouse stretched and wobbled with the moving current.  And fallen leaves gently floated down river, obscuring a perfect reflection.  But those imperfections only made the scene more beautiful in my eyes.  “Dazzling” is the word I chose for the river that day.  I was dazzled – so dazzled that I had to take a picture (which doesn’t even come close to capturing the beauty of that moment).

As a beginning writer, I mistakenly believed that if I was writing a story inspired by something that actually happened, I had to write it exactly the way it happened. Trust me, my early stories were cumbersome and flat and ordinary.  As soon as I let go of that inner need to be fully grounded in reality, my stories began to “dazzle”.  No longer weighed down by the desire to replicate the situations that inspired them, I let my inner creative spirit take over.

Moments of inspiration -like trees along the river bank – became just that- moments of inspiration. My imagination became the river. Like moving water, gently flipping leaves in its current and stretching reflections in new and fascinating directions, I, too, began to flip and stretch my ideas into stories that only vaguely resembled their original inspiration.  And that, I have discovered, was (and is) creativity at its best.

So, this week as you take a stroll down the banks of inspiration, remember to let your imagination run – like a river.

Happy writing all!

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9 thoughts on “THE RIVER: Thoughts on Writing as Reflection versus Replication

  1. Gorgeous photo and you are so right. I still remember years ago when a critter said, that’s unbelievable and I said, but that’s the way it happened. Haha! Your post is a perfect reminder to be inspired and let the muse take me where it may … usually for a richer story. Thank you.

  2. Great analogy! I, too, had to learn that lesson, to let go of every detail of reality and let imagination take over. Thanks, Laura!

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