This post, this entire blog, is an exercise in writing, for me. I have always loved to write. But doing it well is something else. I have been attempting to learn, to teach myself I suppose, but I know, as with running, there is only one way to get better: do it. Then do it some more.
I tend to be far too left-brained for my own good. Recently, I watched a movie called “Butter,” in which Jennifer Garner played a power-hungry society-wife wannabe, who took up her husband’s hobby of sculpting butter. (Confession time: I chose this because Hugh Jackman was in it. While in general the movie rather sucked, for his few scenes it was worth it.)
She read all she could, and executed perfectly designed sculptures–precise to the millimeter, cut at the perfect temperature. But it was readily apparent that her work was just that: precision work, not art. It had no heart.
This worries me. I may–and hope to!–be able to create a novel that hits all the required plot points, has well-developed characters, and is grammatically correct throughout, but is that too much like swimming with a life vest? All well and good, but no personal expression, no creativity.
Something I read recently, among the many “how to write” articles I have been inhaling like so much oxygen: find your own voice. Emulating your idols is one thing, but don’t try to be the next Suzanne Brockman, Nora Roberts, Diana Gabaldon. Because we already have Suzanne, Nora and Diana. And they do well with their books. But the world always needs a new voice, even if it is a small one.
And on one hand I acknowledge this to be true. It makes perfect sense. I read these books because I enjoy them; but I study them like textbooks because I want to learn from the masters, or mistresses. How do they write this “crack”? How do I fall in love with the heroes, identify so strongly with the heroines, become so immersed in that world that I find myself, upon putting down the book, disoriented, gasping and sputtering for air as if I’ve been held underwater?
I often wish I had pursued creative writing when I was younger and better able to absorb it. Old dogs, new tricks, and all that stuff. I recognize beautiful prose when I read it. I can pick up a book written so well I am transported to that time and place in an instant, and see at once why it is so. I can click on a blog post, written about such mundane things, yet I am filled with a befuddling mixture of joy at its beauty–but utter desolation, envious at the author’s mastery of such simple things as words. I know those words. I know their meanings, their inflections. I can speak them. But put them together in quite that way? No.
See there? I tried. So uncomfortable. It’s like the bad poetry I wrote in high school. Like my daughter, dressing up in my clothes, using my makeup, tripping in my shoes. Cute, but….kids’ stuff. I see past it. And here I still am, worrying about whether I can do something, instead of just doing it and hoping for the best. I begin to see where my children get their perfectionism.
So, my goal is two-fold. Read more, but read quality. Read the style in which I want to write. Again, a sports analogy (and, quick: who in the hell ever thought I would use sports analogies?): No pain, no gain. I want to read until my brain hurts, until I can’t take any more. And then write. Write often, write much, slip off the life vest, and go.
Step 1: while other posts on this blog have been set to “private”, this baby’s getting published.