Thursday, October 8, 2009

On writing . . .

The Excellence in Writing program taught me to use adverbs. Perhaps I use them superfluously.

Dickens taught me how to use asyndeton, now I hate conjunctions.

Markus Zusack's Holocaust novel The Book Thief opened my mind to the possibilities of imagery and atypical descriptions that actually say something.

Mary Shelley sufficiently instilled in me a fear of clumsy narration, autobiographical fiction, and deux de machinas.

But I feel like I haven't the faintest idea how to write. Or, that's not quite right. Phonics gave the sounds meaning, the letters became words, and the words marry in subject/predicate form to make sentences. But see, the sentences shouldn't be all the same structure, they should start different ways, and have clauses, or not. Variety is more interesting to read. And of course these sentences should be arranged to make a point, and when you get enough of them on the same topic, you can group them together to form a paragraph. Enough of these paragraphs under a broad subject matter, arranged to promote and support a point, serve a utilitarian enough purpose, and one can say, "I have written something."

In that sense I do know a little about writing. Thank you Mr. Pudewa. But.

You should say something interesting, and you should say it concisely and persuasively. And maybe, you should say it creatively, like no one else has said it before. And maybe, you should say something no one else has heard or thought or said before. Because what are words for if they do not communicate something both true and beautiful?

I wish I knew how to write like that. I'm not sure there's a book to teach me.

I'm terribly desperate to say what I mean, and mean what I say, and verbalize what is so full but intangible inside my mind. I want freedom from self-importance, freedom to describe things the way I see them without feeling silly or self-indulgent or pretentious. I want to speak without feeble metaphors and veiled meaning, I want to say what I mean and continue to mean it. I want to have nothing to say, so I won't have to agonize about how or when to say it. Words and language are a feeble tool, if only I had the mastery to make them say what I mean.

"No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous." -Henry Adams


Micah E. said...

I sympathize with the idea here, if not the specifics. It's so hard to be honest when writing, it's so hard to be transparent and sincere... and somehow we have to be clear as well.

I'm always so tempted to lie when I write. To myself and others. But I never really bothered about style or originality, I haven't gotten there yet.

Art said...

YES. I am thankful for Mr. Pudewa as well, and I relate to about everything in this post. I also agree with Micah that I'm tempted to lie when I write.

I can think of a specific instance where I wrote on the ICC blog that I want to be the person that I was at the conference. Truly, I'm not sure if I know who I want to be. I feel bad about that. Is it lying to say something that you haven't decided on yet?