Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On Writing

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
- Ernest Hemingway

This is the first sentence I've written all week.

I've always considered writing to be a sort of free therapy - something I would do at three in the morning when my thoughts are kaleidoscopic and I simply need clarity. It has always been a way for me to break down my thoughts and wrap my head around diverging perspectives, resulting in empathy at the very least.

I write in sprints, not marathons. I've noticed that most of what I do compares: if I start a painting/novel/project, it'll consume me until I finish, or I'll fall asleep and start something new when I wake. Obviously, there are exceptions, but this is how I seem to operate.

I know people who disagree with my methods, those who write regularly: those who have, through time, developed the strength to persist through dull days and frustrating writer's blocks. Hemingway's own endurance was tested in his first few years as an aspiring writer, as noted by Paula McLain in The Paris Wife. His struggling character states: "If I can write one sentence, simple and true every day, I'll be satisfied."

Thus, I felt it was necessary to question my methods.

When reading On Writing Well, I immediately found that clarity (literally, on the second page). William Zinsser recounted the differences between his views of writing, and the views of a surgeon/recent story-writer, Dr. Brock. While he argued for the necessity to write and rewrite, Dr. Brock believed in allowing a writer's words to come out naturally, and not be toyed with thereafter. When asked what one should do on days without much inspiration, Zinsser stated that writing is a craft, and a serious writer should stick to a daily schedule, like any other job. Dr. Brock, on the other hand, expressed that writing is an art, and if your uninspired mood affects your writing, simply put it down and come back to it later (what I generally do).

There isn't any "right" way to do such personal work. There are all kinds of writers and all kinds of methods, and the method that helps you say what you want to say is the right method for you... Out of it come the two most important qualities that this book will go in search of: humanity and warmth. Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next, and it's not a question of gimmicks to "personalize" the author. It's a question of using the English language in a way that will achieve the greatest clarity and strength. Can such principles be taught? Maybe not. But most of them can be learned. 
- William Zinsser, On Writing Well

When approaching creative works such as writing/art/music/photography/design/etc., the most important asset you have is your own character. It can never be the same as anyone else's, and you can't have it "fixed" with plastic surgery. Your methods, whatever they may be, must serve to reflect you in all of your human-ness, so that whomever is put in front of your work, may also be touched by it. I don't question my methods anymore.

(Top photo by weheartit)

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