Saturday, 26 July 2014

Following my instincts

Writing is difficult, right?

I suppose I better say yes. After all, given that last week I wrote about how writing makes my brain hurt. Seems like I'd be a bit of a hypocrite if I then came out and said the complete opposite. People would start to think I made up these posts on the spot, just to fill in space on my blog.

Well, putting aside the potential truth of the last sentence, I do want to take a slightly different angle today. Writing still is difficult. It still makes my brain hurt. But, despite that, there are often times when it feels like an incredibly natural process. Words just flow out from my mind and onto the page.

At times like that, I begin to wonder if writing is more of an instinctive process. Sometimes, it works best when I don't think too much about it. And to be honest, I'm not particularly schooled as a writer. I haven't read a heap of books on writing, and while I have attended some classes, these have mainly focussed on workshopping material rather than the actual craft of writing.

Are people born with the skill to write? Is it something that just comes naturally? Whenever I think this might be true, I remember how much I've actually read. In some ways, reading a lot of books is the perfect learning tool for learning how to write. Every book (or at last every good book) has been a lesson in how to construct character, how to set scenes, how to deliver dialogue, and all those other aspects of storytelling. Over the years it's sunk in, helping me to become the writer I am today.

So if writing truly is instinctual, it's definitely a learnt instinct. It's from unconsciously absorbing the techniques for writing that you're able to then use them in a manner that feels instinctive.

And whenever I feel like it might be that easy, I get something back from an editor and see how much red there is on the page. That's when I remember that no matter how much I've gained from my reading, there's always a lot still to learn. 

1 comment:

  1. There are levels to skill. I can ride a bike but what use would I be to the UK in the Tour de France? So, yes, everyone can write. We’ve all been tasked with producing stories for our teachers at school. But not everyone is a natural. I define a writer as a personal whose natural response to life is to write about it. To be blunt that’s an unnatural response to life. The natural response is to live life to the full. But then I have a theory about creative types. I think we’re all broken which is why we’re not only willing but need to devote time out of our lives to writing about the stuff that matters to us. Other people write symphonies or take a mallet to a lump of rock or prance around in their underwear. Of course all of this is only unnatural if you accept that a standard known as ‘the norm’ exists. In theory, of course, it does but we all deviate from the norm. That’s what makes us individuals. Artists tend to deviate a bit more than most.

    Now as for how difficult writing is I guess that depends on what’s being written and who’s doing the writing. I’m writing this with ease; the words are flowing and I’m hardly having to think about what I’m saying. To be honest though when it comes to writing fiction I have two settings: easy and impossible. I find when the writing’s hard then it’s like driving with the handbrake on. I could never write for a living but then I’m not sure those who do are doing what comes naturally. They force themselves to write. They sometimes make themselves ill trying to meet schedules—I’m thinking of someone like Spike Milligan when he was working on The Goon Show—and, to my mind, that’s not what writing’s all about. Writing shouldn’t be a job. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a right to be paid for what we produce but I think the best writers are essentially amateurs who write for the fun of it as opposed to those who have contracts and need to produce x number of books a year. I’d hate that.

    I write when I need to write. I’ve love to write more but maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t because when I do get an idea I’m genuinely excited and usually have the requisite energy to get on with it. Luckily I don’t have to write to pay the bills. When I think of that I think of the protagonist in Hunger and I find that quite a scary prospect.