Monday, December 11, 2006
Getting lost for the sheer pleasure of it
You may have noticed that there isn't a hell of a lot of writing advice on this blog.
That's not because I lack ideas about How It Should Be Done. However, I want to be careful about what I say to new writers, each of whom needs to discover his or her own way to tell a story. I see so many bad examples of advice for new writers.
The best kind of writing teachers seem to me to be the ones who foster the journey of other writers without placing them in harness. They suggest a variety of approaches, they work to motivate and inspire while still providing practical tools and exercises that help with skill-building. I don't mind when someone gives nuts and bolts advice on ways to find agents or shows others how to put a manuscript into a standard format.
But sometimes I read another writer's proclamations about what one must do within the text of a story, or how one must construct its framework, or how one must go about the process -- and frankly, I find myself wanting to laugh.
I'm talking about the folks who seem to believe they picked up their stone tablets at a nearby burning bush. This is how I do it, so you must do it this way. By the way, all three of my best friends in my mutual admiration society write this way, too. Hello, hubris!
As if the universe of creating literature could be distilled into a set of Rules that Work For Everyone. What boring places libraries would be if that was true. Thank God the proclaimers get ignored.
Would we ever think of trying to convince painters or musicians that they must do x, y, or z to create true art? I don't doubt that those artists also have the "EZ Way to Paint a Portrait" or the "EZ Way to Play the Piano" folks in their lives, but it seems to me that uninitiated writers are inundated with advice that consists of oversimplified rules that simply do not hold true for everyone.
Here's my own simple advice to you new writers, so laugh if you will: one of the hardest parts of this endeavor of writing a book is finding your own path and having the courage to stay on it, while still staying open to the possibility that there may be another, better way to get where you're going. How will you know which way is best for you? Keep writing.
Explore. You may end up lost, or you may make fascinating, unexpected discoveries. Personally, I will take being lost (revision allows this to be a relative term, after all) over treading only on the well-worn, previously mapped grid, but you may find the grid is the best way to get where you want to go. Whatever works -- just start stepping.
'S all good....
Photo above, " Stream on the trail of Swift Camp Creek area" by Don Corbin, used with his kind permission, from morguefile.com.