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The writer’s split personality

One of the first exercises I did in my workshops at the Rabbit Hill Writers’ Studio was to have my students separate out the two parts of their nature. As As Dorothea Brande says in her wonderful little book Becoming a Writer: “Every author is a very fortunate sort of dual personality, and it is this very fact that makes him such a bewildering, tantalizing, irritating figure.”

So it’s all right for a writer to have a split personality — in fact he/she should cultivate it. I always had my students personify their two sides: the Creative Artist and the Critic. I named my two sides and even wrote scenes where they interacted with each other. My Creative Artist is Kyle Marin, which means “temple of the sea.” He’s a pearl diver who knows how to open oysters to find the treasures inside. He lives on the beach, and is wild, unkept, unshaven, shaggy, with sun-bronzed skin and callouses on his feet from never wearing shoes. He doesn’t speak much but dredges up uncanny things out of the depths. He’s always tracking sand into my studio.

My Critic, on the other hand, is named Hackett Dempster, or the “meddling little hack.” He wears a well-tailored Ivy League suit and a button-down shirt. There’s always a freshly pressed white linen handkerchief in his breast pocket. His bible is the Chicago Manual of Style and he’s a stickler for proper punctuation and paragraph structure. He takes his motto from Mark Twain: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word in the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” His thesaurus is well-worn. Needless to say, Kyle and Hackett don’t get along, but as long as I keep them separated, they do their jobs well and just ignore each other. I need them both.

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Guest Thursday, 14 December 2017