Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mastering Mayhem 6/09/09

A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.

Thomas Mann
Good, You're here, Now I can begin.
Before I started writing seriously I had a lot of respect for writers. I enjoyed and still enjoy reading books, magazines and newspapers when they are well written. I like reading news, both current and ancient. I enjoy reading various opinions on subjects that interest me. I love to follow a philosophers chain of thinking to an ultimate and sometimes surprising conclusion. And I enjoy a good tale.

Now that I'm writing myself and have to do all the creative work, making real literary events out of the stuff that swirls in my imagination, finding and retaining the right word that fits in the sentence, forming and shaping the phrases to clarify the thoughts of the sentence, crafting the sentences to express the ideas and events of the story and keeping the unraveling of the totality in a logical, believable pace, I have come to have even more respect for those who do it well.

I've read the flippant advice from other writers; less is more, cross out every other word or every other line, eschew obfuscation, etc. All of it is true up to a point. But the actual process of writing is far from flippancy. It's difficult work.

I was in a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. We had the blessing of one whole week of table time. Table time is what it sounds like. The actors sit around a table, read the play and discuss it. It's an excellent way to become familiar with the script, the other actors and the director's vision of the play, before facing the problems of memorizing the lines and dealing with the physical relationships. (In most productions one is lucky to get one morning of table time.) A day came that the director (Charlie Hensley, one of the best) had us read the play using our own language. I came away from that rehearsal not only with an even greater respect for the brilliance of Shakespeare's writing but a fascination of why he chose the words and phrases he did to convey what was being said. He didn't just choose words to fit the verse. Much of the play is in prose. In his plays, with his language, the characters are grander, grosser and more complex than in the average supermarket dramas of today.

From there I began to ask the same question of other writers and also of myself. A sentence is like a mathematical or chemical equation. The right words must be in the right order to achieve the desired effect. Being a beginning writer, I'm discovering these equations as I go. It's difficult.

Another chore a writer has to face is the matter of frankness and honesty. A writer must grasp every detail of what he's writing and test it on the touchstone of his own life experience. Mysteries must be revealed and secrets exposed. That means going back and challenging everything, making sure it's a truthful expression, conforms to the story and even adds some special color or tone to it. Everyone knows that brooks babble and thunder rumbles. But what do they really sound like to the character that's hearing them. The writer owes it to his reader to write the truth and not slide through an event on the skate board of the ordinary.

I feel a sense of obligation and responsibility. I have been given the gift of the English language. I want to use it to the best of my ability and beyond, no matter how difficult it is.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Save a slice for me.


Cathy said...

Having just gotten an alert that you posted something I came running. Your gift is being used but in my humblest, not enough. I wonder - is it bad karma not to use our gifts to the full and fore? Not sure but I know I'd be first in line for a signed DB manuscript. I understand all you talk about, the needs which are a must in any true writer. And yes, it's difficult - esp when people are still "burning" books, i.e. removing Aldous Huxley from library shelves in certain towns, can you believe? Hope life is treating you well.

Cathy said...

O yes - did u know? Most actors of any flavor end up writing amazing books.

Big Mark 243 said...

I feel a sense of obligation and responsibility. I have been given the gift of the English language. I want to use it to the best of my ability and beyond, no matter how difficult it is.

Hmm ... I wonder if I have any of that in me, and maybe could put enough thoughts down to make something legible. Good entry, DB.

Maire said...

DB, it is a gift to all of us that you have chosen now this venue to express with great clarity and creativity, and honesty your memories and observations.
I would be first in line for a book!!
I was going to say enjoy the lovley weather, but I'm hearing rain outside, so curl up and enjoy a good read!!
hugs Maire

Beth said...

Eschew obfuscation. I'm going to remember that. :)

Grace said...

that darn quote you left on Raymond's Law of Poker blog is my new most favorite quote ever....

superstar, you.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I think you can move from beginner to adept :o)