The Watchtower of Destruction: The Ferrett's Journal - On The Deep Mysteries Of Writing
[Recent Entries][Archive][Friends][User Info]
On The Deep Mysteries Of Writing|
There is a lot of magic in the art of storytelling – the writer sits down, furrows his or her brow, and a world spills from their fingers. People emerge who’d never been there before, and begin to have adventures. It’s a mysterious, unfathomable Process that cannot be fully explained to mere mortals.
Or so writers would tell you.
Look, I’ve done a fair amount of writing in my time, and yes, sometimes you wake up and the faeries have sprinkled dust in your ears and lo, a story springs onto the page.
But most of the time I’m sitting down to the keys after eight hours of work, tired but ready, and today I’m going to fix the awkward dialogue in this scene, and rework the characterization so that Penelope The Heroine doesn’t come off like a complete idiot. Most days I write not because my head is buzzing like a beehive with Ideas, but because I’m 3,500 words in and one more scene means I can call it a day.
A lot of writing doesn’t spring from pure inspiration, but factual and rather mundane problem-solving, using your skills to fix gaps. It’s grunge work, occasionally tedious and often plain.
Yet there’s this Mystique about writing, usually perpetuated by chain-smoking young folks at coffee shops, that writing is unto a channel to the Gods, inexplicable to mere mortals, a form of Jedi magic that only the specially chosen can follow.
What’s that? You have that special power of Creativity, too? Oh my God, we should totally have sex.
Now, I’m not denying that there’s a value in learning to feed your creative beast properly, but there’s a deeply cynical part of me that says, “A writers’ job is to make things – even boring things – sound interesting. So of course we’ve made our own profession sound like oracles.”
And a deeper cynic in me says that if all writers were janitors, there would be endless paeans as to how the janitorial process requires this zen-like beauty of analying the unwanted things of the world and ushering them to a final resting place. And janitors could pick up chicks like that.
Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.
This entry has also been posted at http://theferrett.dreamwidth.org/189698.html. You can comment here, or comment there; makes no never-mind by me.
Tags: i'm a writer
|Date:||February 8th, 2012 03:07 pm (UTC)|| |
"What’s that? You have that special power of Creativity, too? Oh my God, we should totally have sex."
I think I may have hurt myself laughing just now. Wheeeee!
|Date:||February 8th, 2012 03:53 pm (UTC)|| |
What would be interesting would be to find out if there's any correlation between the bits that authors write while feeling inspired rather than workmanlike, and the bits that readers feel especially blown away by. Does inspiration typically mean you've come up with something exceptional, or does it typically just mean you've come up with something of the usual quality for less effort than it normally takes?
The one short story I wrote without changing my mind about the premise at least once and without stopping, scrapping, and totally restarting... is in an anthology that I don't think got read by more than 5 people besides the authors.
The story that I started, realized wasn't going to be tellable by me because I'm me and research is my nemesis, and restarted with a retooling of the idea, then was asked to edit down because the flow wasn't right... was picked for reading in a podcast.
But then, my stories have always gotten what I felt to be "middling at best" reviews. And my sample size is 4, so it's not ultra-reliable.
I'm of the opinion that those too things aren't incompatible, and there *is* a sort-of sacred, mystic quality of creating something out of nothing-- and even more so in the diligent work it takes to do that. But, then, I feel like work *itself* can be pretty awesome, and the problem isn't that writers or artists are singled out as having a special something, but that people aren't giving themselves credit where it's due in their own work.
I read something from Natalie Goldberg saying a friend was mugged, and caught herself saying "But you can't mug me -- I'm a writer."
|Date:||February 8th, 2012 06:47 pm (UTC)|| |
As the saying goes, the muse comes during the act of creation, not before.
I don't know, I feel like working writers work hard to demystify writing. Especially in SFF. The people who are into the Mystique are folks who want to Be a Writer but not Do the Work.
Yeah, that seems to reflect my experience.
most of the time i'm not bleeding words. most of the time i'm screaming at the pen and paper to get up and DO something already. DANCE FOR ME YOU FOOLS! or something.
When I went to law school, I discovered just how full of shit people could be about their profession. I showed up for classes expecting an experience like I'd seen the "The Paper Chase" with people darned ready to kill themselves if they couldn't make the grade. Ugh, the naivety of me! It was a joke. By the end, I'd stopped going to most of my courses and just showed up for the finals, and I never, once, went around telling undergrads about how HARD and ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE law school was unless you had a superbrain. You just had to do your work, study, and be done with it.
I think writing is much the same. You don't need a particular mystical talent, but you have to keep doing it. Even someone with relatively bad grammatical skills can become a decent writer, if he or she is willing to put in the time and effort to keep reading and writing and editing. Keep doing it, and you'll get better... eventually.
Most of the time, I have to nudge myself into writing. It's certainly easy to say I'll sit around and wait for inspiration, but that's not going to get me anywhere. More often than not, if I can make myself start writing, I can get something decent out of my head, and even if only part of that is workable as a final product, at least it's something I didn't have before I sat down and started typing.
|Date:||February 9th, 2012 03:41 am (UTC)|| |
Oooh, oooh! A person who went to law school! Is it an experience you would recommend doing? Why or why not?
If I had to go back, I'm not sure I'd do it again. There is an over saturation of attorneys, especially in the metro areas. The work can be very inflexible, and the pay doesn't commiserate to the amount of time and money you sink in. I've had some interesting and rewarding experiences, but they're not the majority of what I do, and there's always a struggle between making money and doing what feels morally right.
"so you want to be a writer?" by Charles Bukowski
if it doesn’t come bursting out of you in spite of everything, don’t do it. unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it. if you have to sit for hours staring at your computer screen or hunched over your typewriter searching for words, don’t do it. if you’re doing it for money or fame, don’t do it. if you’re doing it because you want women in your bed, don’t do it. if you have to sit there and rewrite it again and again, don’t do it. if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it, don’t do it. if you’re trying to write like somebody else, forget about it. if you have to wait for it to roar out of you, then wait patiently. if it never does roar out of you, do something else. if you first have to read it to your wife or your girlfriend or your boyfriend or your parents or to anybody at all, you’re not ready. don’t be like so many writers, don’t be like so many thousands of people who call themselves writers, don’t be dull and boring and pretentious, don’t be consumed with self- love. the libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep over your kind. don’t add to that. don’t do it. unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, unless being still would drive you to madness or suicide or murder, don’t do it. unless the sun inside you is burning your gut, don’t do it. when it is truly time, and if you have been chosen, it will do it by itself and it will keep on doing it until you die or it dies in you. there is no other way. and there never was.
Ferrett, I know you don't log in to El Jay any more, but please unscreen the comment I made above that got dropped into screening because of the external image, so that everybody can see what a dork I am.