Monday, May 20, 2013

The Writing Life

I want to give you some insight into what being a writer means. Especially, I want to give you some feeling for what it is like to support yourself and your family using a common skill. I also want to tell you how I feel about it, and what it is like to be a writer.

To begin with, I think it is important for the non-writer to understand that putting words on paper (or on a computer screen), is really the end of a process that begins somewhere deep in the brain; that begins with a thought or a picture and ends with the words, "The End." Between those two posts lies a fence of sometimes fragile fabric drawn from research, imagination, and knowledge. Pulling those strands together must begin before the first word is put down. That is the hard work of writing.

Imagination? A very important part of writing comes from the writer’s skill in recognizing the three-dimensional vision of a thought or idea or image. That is perhaps the first spark that ignites the fire of creativity. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, or between two words you are reading in a book, or putting one foot before the other as you walk along a path in the garden, that quickly, an idea or picture or full-blown sentence arrives in the part of your mind where it is recognized, and you are off and running with an idea. Now the work begins.

If what you are writing is to be part of a report or perhaps a plan for a product, then hours of research must follow. If you are writing for someone else, a client or a teacher or a lover, you must have the patience to refine your idea to the point that you can express it clearly and in words that are both economical and appealing. But what about "real" writing: creative, fictional, imaginative? That’s what I really want to tell you about.

Just as with any other writing, putting the words down is the end of the process, not the beginning. One doesn’t simply sit down and start putting letters together in a single, breathless burst. Pay no attention to those filmic events in which the previously despondent and frustrated writer suddenly wakes up, grabs a pencil or turns on the computer, and madly, compulsively, brutally attacks the blank page and fills it with word after word until the sun rises over the dirty city where the garret is located, and the hero types: "The End." And then is rich and famous. Doesn’t happen.

And about being lonely, alone, depressed and despondent: another myth, probably first generated by a writer who discovered the truth and didn’t want to share it. Put it this way: how could you be alone, much less lonely, when you are in the middle of a world you create yourself, populated by people who owe their very existence to your imagination, in places only you have seen before? This is your world, your space, and it is what you want it to be. Lonely? Well that’s when you have to leave your own world and rejoin the rest.

It’s the writer’s life for me!

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