Today’s bit of inspiration comes from a piece on vertical writing by Nick Ripatrazone, a staff writer at The Millions.
In a recent piece at The Millions, Nick Ripatrazone writes about the gestation of ideas and vertical writing, or the process of slowing down and digging deeper when writing a story. He describes the process of Andre Dubus, who writes an idea in a notebook, then leaves it alone for as long as it needs to ripen. Dubus doesn’t think about a story — “I will kill the story by controlling it,” he says.
But Dubus’ process wasn’t always this way: before, he planned his plots, forced his characters to do things, wrote a lot of words, and went through too many drafts. This is horizontal writing: a focus on the daily sessions, the revisions, and the amassment of pages and words. Ripatrazone talks about the difference between horizontal and vertical writing:
Vertical writing, in contrast, values depth over breadth. Stories are written when they are ready to be written; they are not forced into existence by planning or excessive drafting. Horizontal writing seeks to move across the page; vertical writing seeks to dig into the page, to value the building of character and authenticity over the telegraphing of plot. The folly of horizontal writing is that it convinces writers that fiction writing operates on a production model. If they simply sit at the desk and pound out page after page, the story will come.
Ripatrazone also talks about his own writing habits, and his attraction to moving down within the page, rather than across it:
I write vertically. I have never been a writer with a lot of time to write. I am thankful for that. I am not sure what would happen if I had hours to work. Not being able to write makes me want to write very badly. It makes me not want to squander the moments when I sit with a story. This is a necessary tension. I am not a writer first. I have a family, and without them I would have little reason to want to write — or to do anything else. My desire to create is held in silence during the day, so that my literary moments can be focused and absolute.
“Gestation of Ideas: On Vertical Writing and Living” is a lovely read, no matter if you’re a writer of fiction or nonfiction. Ripatrazone shares insights on the writing life, the benefits of slowing down and letting ideas unfold naturally, and the importance of time and perspective when telling the stories within us.