Monday, August 16, 2010

Putting life back into it

I feel as if my writing is getting stiff and boring; it's rarely spontaneous now. Recently Sharon reminded me of something Julia Cameron said in The Right To Write:
    Writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up. Whenever I strive to "think something up", writing becomes something I must stretch to achieve. [...] When writing is about the importance of what we ourselves have to say, it becomes burdened by our concerns about whether the reader will "get it" -- meaning, get how brilliant we are. [...] Most of us are really willing only to write well, and this is why the act of writing strains us. We are asking it to do two jobs at once: to communicate to people and to simultaneously impress them. Is it any wonder that our prose buckles under the strain of doing this double task?

Blimey, this hits the nail on the head! I realised then that I overthink every single thing I write. Even my blog posts. I always want to write something that's "worth reading". No wonder I've never been able to do stream-of-consciousness posts no matter how hard I tried.

Talking to Alex about this, I told her I agonise over every word I choose when I blog. Her reply? "No wonder [your posts] are so polished you can see your reflection in them!" Good God, that's not the effect I've been aiming for! Polish is all very well, but it's so sterile. I want passion. Emotion. Flames dancing off the screen!!! Fail.

Cameron adds: We can either "think of something to write about" or we can write about what we happen to be thinking about. I'm going to have to find a way to turn my brain off.


Caedmon said...

"Writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up."

I need to change one thing in that; writing isn't so much a need to get something down, but a need to get it out.

Anne Lamotte wrote a book about her writing process which I loved (I should find it again). She taught me the importance of writing "shitty first drafts" that are nothing more than getting out whatever it is that's trying to get out. Editing can come later if someone else is supposed to read it. Even then, I have to remind myself not to worry the words to death.

Sunflower said...

Anne Lammott's book is Bird by Bird and Julia Cameron said much the same thing, except I left that part out *grins* Cameron said that writing is listening & jotting down what you hear rather than trying to come up with something. She said we're just taking dictation. I'm afraid my writer's ego is huffy at the mere thought :p

bibliobibuli said...

Glad this hit home. I think Cameron says it better than any other writer on writing I've read. Lamott's "shitty first drafts" is also quite right. You have to be prepared to put down the wrong ideas in the wrong words en route to the right ideas in the right words.

I always use a quote from Toby Litt in my classes too, saying that when you write you must be prepared to make "a complete arse of yourself". My classes usually titter at that, but it's true.

Alex said...

Hate to crush your ego further, but I happen to agree with Cameron. A while back, I started referring to myself as a "documenter" instead of "writer".

*runs off before Sunflower can throttle her*

Sunflower said...

@Sharon, my problem is that I always used to get away with submitting my first draft... so I'm not used to the thought of producing "shitty first drafts"!

@Alex, no wonder you thought wordsmith was "elitist" and "trying too hard"! This explains everything!

Caedmon said...

Confession time: I'm a wordsmith who turns in his first drafts, too. Just because I know better doesn't mean I follow the advice.

Or do I know better? It's hard work and everything I write takes every bit of blood and sweat it can wring out of me, but it gets the job done and gets it done well.

Sunflower said...

My writing rarely takes blood and sweat... and actually the more spontaneous it is, the better it is, which means I should write faster and not think :p