Monday, 4 October 2010

The Yin-yang of Writing

Our time on this earth is finite. By the time we come to really understand that we've already acquired a whole heap of responsibilities that threaten to devour all those precious hours we haven't already wasted. No wonder many blogs on writing (including this one) bang on incessantly about maximising your writing time, using it more efficiently, squeezing everything writerly you can out of the limited time you have available.

But that's not all there is to writing.

Reading many writing blogs (including this one) you'd be forgiven for thinking that writing is all about craft, process, discipline, tools, word-count, technique. Those things are very important, but they are only one side of the writing coin.

The reason you can't move for advice on these things is that they are easy to explain, easy to understand, and consequently with a bit of work, easy to learn.

But where's the magic? Where's the individuality? What makes one work more powerful, more unique, more different than anything else?

There are two aspects to the art of writing – the ability to create, and the ability to craft – one cannot exist without the other. Pure creation without craft will be whimsical, self-indulgent, irrelevant. Craft without creation would be sterile, flat, and without substance.

So the writer must be bi-polar and adopt a two stage approach to writing – the creation phase, where all the whimsy and irrelevance must be indulged; and the craft phase, where everything learnt from all those writers' blogs and books should be selectively applied to what's been created.

But there are times when you need to work with both the left and right side of your brain – when you need to invent something within constraints, when you realise you need a particularly scene, a new character, a plot twist – and it needs to comply with the demands of the story you have crafted.

Ouch.

This may seem scary – without freedom how can you create? There are techniques for addressing this, but don't be afraid; the imagination can thrive in a cramped space, it can be re-inforced by restriction. Just get your pen out and try it. You have to get character x from point a to point b which is impossible bearing in mind his personality and situation. Or is it? What could push this character to that point, what would need to happen to get him there? When all your imagination is brought to bear on this limited space, when it's squeezed into such a small spot, it will be heightened and focused and will take your story into places you never imagined. Not yet anyway.

6 comments:

  1. Great post! Yep, my information is in a very cramped space, so it's nice to know all is not lost!

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  2. Hey Julie - thanks for the comment, glad you liked the post, and I hope your writing is going well.

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  3. Really like your point about constraints creating an interesting situation. I've brainstormed my way out of many a hole for exactly these reasons.

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  4. Thanks, Roz - your blog seems to have dumped a load of your old posts onto my reader stream, which is a good thing, as it made me read some great posts of yours I hadn't seen before.

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  5. Great post. Wouldn't creativity be at its best when given boundaries? When I write from a well thought out plot, I have boundaries, yet I still create fresh on every page. It's just different.

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  6. I think you're right, Lorna - sometimes working within boundaries can produce more and better ideas than working without them.

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