Imagine you’ve taken on a project. A neighborhood council asked that you daylight a stream buried 70 years ago. As social values swing back and forth, the stream once running free, was then contained in a culvert, and now, once again, exposed to the daylight has you answering the three forms of narrative. The practical aspects — low and high-water flows, 100- and 200-year flood levels, rate of flow — have you applying Manning’s formulas to surface and subsurface water flow issues. Once determined you derive the stream and embankment cross sections that accommodate the numbers. Local residents ask for a design that reflects the character of their neighborhood. Manning’s formulas can’t answer that request. The formulas can accommodate flow rates, quantities, pipe, culvert, and channel size needed to accommodate ‘x’ gallons per minute but not the local history, sense of place, nor geographical setting. In that this project deals with water, the third narrative level of collective unconscious and archetypes may bring into play ideas of birth or rebirth, cleansing or healing, and expressions of motion, change, transition. All things with which people readily identify if provided an appropriately expressive design.
So write your short story.
No. Wait. Another side note. Because of all the reading and especially writing I had my students do I am well aware of their sense dread (if not outright fear) of not being writers. Of asking things like, “How do writers do it?” What’s funny is the number of writers I’ve known who ask, “I’m not a designer. How do designers do it?” Simple answer: practice and perseverance. Also, see:
Kooser, Ted. 2005. The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska.
Lamott, A. 1994. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor.
Rae, C. M. 1996. Movies of the Mind: How to Build a Short Story. Santa Fe, NM: Sherman Asher.