Monday, August 8, 2016

Moving Beyond Writer Crutches

Eventually, you just have to sit down and write.

Sometimes, I think some aspiring and new authors are more in love with the idea of writing than actually telling the story. Course after course, book after book is touted as the thing that's going to inform their writing aspirations.

Oddly enough, the main options I see recommended repeatedly are often taught by people with no publishing credits to their name. I mean, if you were going to invest in a book or course to learn to write bestselling screenplays wouldn't you want to know the author or instructor had actually sold a screenplay for a healthy sum?

While learning about the process of writing, how to plot, developing strong characters and writing convincing dialogue is important, reading advice will only take you so far. There comes a point where you have to learn through the hard work of actually writing and executing those elements of your story effectively.

I mean, if you're going to hire someone to redo the electric in your house, do you want someone who's rewired a hundred houses, or someone who's simply read a lot of textbooks about how to do this?

With writing, it's a bit like expecting to eat breakfast, lunch, a snack and dinner before needing to go to the bathroom. It's like expecting your system not to digest anything until you've consumed everything.

A lot of novelists start late—Conrad, Pirandello, even Mark Twain. When you're young, chess is all right, and music and poetry. But novel-writing is something else. It has to be learned, but it can't be taught. This bunkum and stinkum of college creative writing courses! The academics don't know that the only thing you can do for someone who wants to write is to buy him a typewriter. - James M. Cain

 In my opinion, you read a lot and write a lot when you start out. When you hit a snag, let's call it a weakness in your diet, you refer to resources to get some insight on the issue - whether it's plot or character development or how to use semicolons. However, you do not stay entrenched in the feeding process endlessly. You take it back and start applying any insight to your work. That's how you truly learn. When anyone is more invested in a writer's help book or a course, or repeating a course, chances are they're avoiding the real pleasure and pain of actually being a writer and applying what they've learned theoretically.

Are you in love with the idea of writing, or actually telling the story? I have my own 'writer crutch' - a hangup I've let hold me back at times -  although it doesn't fall under this category. (Perhaps I'll share another time.)

1 comment:

Dana King said...

"the main options I see recommended repeatedly are often taught by people with no publishing credits to their name."

Thank you. I've believed this for years.