Whenever we write, our initial goals (the writer’s intention) are likely to turn out to be quite different from the emergent goals that we discover through doing the writing itself (the work’s intention). This distinction matters because when the two intentions are in opposition, we must bravely abandon our initial writer’s intention/s and fully commit to the work’s intention, even if this means radical, time-consuming, or otherwise inconvenient whole-scale revisions of our draft. As my mentor Robert Boswell said: “The story is smarter than you.”
In this talk, I will discuss philosophical implications of this idea (the iterative self, collaboration with the self, the accumulated intelligence of a work of writing/art), then move to a practical nuts-and-bolts treatment of how I use the work’s intention in my own writing practice, particularly in my recent novel, The Made-Up Man (2019). I will also share how I apply this concept pedagogically, in foundation seminars, creative writing classes, and IPs.
I hope to present this idea in such a manner that interested colleagues could usefully adapt it to their own scholarship and pedagogy.
Scapellato, Joseph, "The Writer's Intention vs. the Work's Intention" (2019). Faculty Colloquium. 34.