September 28, 2013

There is no alternative to writing

Dear M,

A few years ago, I had a conversation with an author. Overflowing with admiration, I asked her about the writing process and some doubts I had regarding writing. Of a certain "rule" of writing I had often heard of but had never been able to implement. I said, "I have never got that right, I guess we have to keep writing and writing and then we will get it right, eh?"

She shook her head, smiling. I stared at her, was she trying to say that "writing and writing" is not necessary? She seemed to imply with her calm smile that it could be understood and implemented even if you did not write daily. Well, she was the author, not I; what did I know? So I left it at that.

Maybe she shook her head to convey something else. Maybe she was just thinking. Maybe she did not get my question at all. A number of Maybes - because I know for a certainty today that you don't get any rule right if you don't "write and write and write and write". You don't get writing right if you don't write daily.

So what was she shaking her head for? Maybe at my naïveté, that's the only explanation I can find today. For all I know, she has moved on from writing, so maybe her head-shake meant, no, write-and-write isn't for me. (I may be wrong, a masterpiece from her may burst upon this planet any moment.)

I came across some "tips to improve your handwriting" in a children's book recently. The tips were very direct and simple: Take a page out of a book you've read or a certain item from a newspaper and copy it. Repeat every day, same page or different, it did not matter, as long as you were writing every day. Think of how you want your writing to be - even copy someone else's, if you like it - and write that way, every day. Write and write and write, and there was no option but for your handwriting to become the way you have been practising. There is no escape! And there is no short-cut. Maybe as you keep practising you will improvise it a little and it will become beautiful and different and unique.

It is just so for writing. The solution - the only one, perfect solution - is to keep writing, keep practising. Then one day, you will want to improvise a little, and the result could be so original that you burn in its glory.

When you read the latest books from established authors you can feel it - how they have been able to experiment with their writing, expand it, elaborate it, and perfect it, without losing control, without making it look like an ogre unleashed. If a newbie attempts something like that, the lack of confidence and apprehension would appear through the lines, and no one would be impressed.

Until you get it right (and even after that), there is no alternative but to write.


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