Good Writing is like Amber

This is reblogged from Vivienne Tuffnell’s post of February 14th 2014. It appeared on Women Writers, Women(s) Books

A very vivid and pithy post on good writing- it’s origins and distillation.

Good Writing is like Amber

February 4, 2014 | By | 4 Replies

Final version the BetThe gash in the bark fills slowly with thick aromatic resin, clear and golden; it seeps out and spills over, precious droplets that catch the light. Tiny fragments of bark and leaves and mosses, a gossamer-light wing of a fly, all are caught and enveloped as the tree bleeds sap to seal the wound. Years pass and the sap dries and hardens and the open wound becomes smaller beneath the resin.

One day the tree finally falls, becomes a part of a layer as the forest ceases to be a forest, and is pressed down and down by more debris. Time unknowing passes and endless chances before I see it, shaped and polished and set in silver, laid on blue velvet in a jewellery shop window.

I’ve always loved amber but I didn’t get to buy my first piece until around the same time the price shot up as a direct result of Jurassic Park. Since then I’ve got quite savvy and found excellent pieces for decent prices. It’s pretty much my favourite stone (even though it’s not a stone) because it’s so light and warm to wear.

But it has always made me conscious of how good writing is like amber. Good writing is about more than simple story, more than the he-said-she-said of snappy dialogue, the literary fire-works of cunning vocabulary. Good writing reaches deep into the soul of the reader and leaves an impression.

Amber starts with a wound. Trees that produce resin bleed it to seal and protect open lesions in their skins. The sap contains all sorts of compounds that fight infections and fungi, and forms a sticky barrier to stop further loss of sap and prevent entry of micro-organisms. The emotional wounds we all experience in life can turn us bitter, or we can in essence bleed out because there is nothing to stem the wound.

That’s the first healing power of writing: to staunch the wound and prevent the bitterness sneaking in. It gives you the chance to encapsulate some of the pain, and keep it from hurting you more. Read more