WRITING TIP: Stories are best kept fluid and subject to change

Whether we are writing a story or living the story we tell ourselves about our lives, it is most useful to us when we hold it flexibly — subject to change. All stories are theories of how things work, and these theories need to be open to sudden revision when new insight comes in. This is what keeps both our writing and our lives fluid, dynamic, creative and close to the truth. In “The World Split Open,” Marilyn Robinson put it this way: “At the most fundamental level, narrative is how we make sense of things … I believe this narrative is the essential mode of our being in the world, individually and collectively. Maintaining its integrity — maintaining a sense of the essentially provisional or hypothetical character of the story we tell ourselves — is, I will suggest, our greatest practical, as well as moral and ethical, problem.”