Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Am, I Write



I've been in a mind to write about writing for a while now, but it always seemed presumptuous, and I don't really have time for it, and anyway, I don't care too much for blogging. Yes, I know, big mistake, authors have to have a blog and post regularly, and so on.  Have you ever had a feeling of distance on your computer? Like, some pages, files, whatever, are simply farther away from what you do daily than other stuff? Well, that's how I feel about my blog. It's in the farthest corner of Safari, somewhere DOWN THERE WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE and I don't like to go there. It involves work.

Sometimes there's a subject I'd really like to rant blog about, but I'm not that stupid, and I keep my trap shut until the moment is over, or I do in fact write the blog post, but then my poor publisher gets dumped with it, and of course has to comment or leave me still in ranting mode, and unhappy. Publishers have a hard life sometimes, and sometimes they are more babysitters than publishers.

Anyway. I'm rambling.

What I really wanted to write about today is... writing.

I don't believe you can teach writing. There, it's said. I believe you can teach technique, grammar, maybe even style. There may be a way to teach plotting, storyline, dialogue, characterization, even description. You can put all these together, and maybe a couple more that I forgot, and you have the classic creative writing program. Oh yes, punctuation. Ah, and... contractions (*doffs head to publisher*).

But if you put all these together and shake well, all you have is CRAFT. I want to compare this to creating a clone. You can grow a perfect clone, the prettiest girl on Earth, or the most adorable male, and yet they are empty husks, nothing but bodies, because the main ingredient is missing: the soul. The thing you cannot teach is the feel for writing, how to make it come alive.

A writer has to be able to observe. I'd almost go so far and postulate that this is a major ability for a writer. Everything that goes into a story, every emotion, every expression, the way a twig bends under snow, you must have observed it to put it into words. If you don't see your surroundings, you can't describe them.

Just as important, I believe, is visualization. To write a scene, you have to see it in your mind. It's as if the characters are doing private theater scenes in your head. They act them out, you write them down. They deliver the dialogue, all you have to do is listen. And write.

Writing is not a job. It's something you do, or you don't. There's no half-way writing. It happens all the time. Either you're at your desk, typing, or kneading the story in your head, or collecting impressions, or doing research or playing out dialogues while you clean the bathroom. You may not even notice you're writing, but the next time you sit down to actually type, you'll notice.

Either you're a writer, or you are not.

That's basically all. I said, BASICALLY. This is a declaration of faith, and nothing more. I've said my piece. Generally, I think talking about writing is a waste of time, when I could instead by writing a story.

To say it in the undying words of Yoda: There is no try. Either do, or do not.