Thursday, June 23, 2011

On writing

(yahoo image)

A blank page. Most writers find it daunting. It’s worse than tabula rasa, a blank slate, because the ideas are there, but the words are not.

I would like to consider myself a writer, but I am not sure. My confidence flags. I’m an historian and history teacher, retired; a nonprofit director, retired; and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), retired from my post in Ukraine. I’ve had diverse experiences and adventures. And I write about them.

So sometimes I call myself a writer when I’m at the computer, or writing a blog. Not a real writer, though, a narrative writer, not a fiction writer because I don't make up stories. I write about what I see, more like a reporter.

It's easier for me to describe situations, people, life happenings than to make up a story, easier to write about my experiences, what I know, my take on things, than compose a poem.

I have trouble with ”don’t tell, show.” That was the lesson from a writing group I once dared to join. I was on vacation in San Miguel de Allende. I think that’s when I feared I was not a writer afterall. What was I doing in this writer’s group? The fear gripped me, and has not let go.

I basically play with words. I don’t think this is considered being a writer, more a “scribbler,” a “damned scribbler,” as Nathaniel Hawthorne called the women who wrote romance novels that became more popular than his books in the mid-nineteenth century. Not that I could write a romance novel.

Is writing a craft, or an art? I lean toward craftsmanship, crafting words. That‘s what Stephen King calls it in his book “On Writing,” which is also an autobiography.

But writing is also an art, if you have a larger imagination than I do and more talent to put it on paper. Writing is an art form if the writer is comfortable with losing control, letting the ideas flow, less self-conscious perhaps, can take us places we've never been before. King does that.

I'm as daunted by the idea of stream of consciousness writing as I am of a blank page. The notion of “unleashing” mental images without screening, without thought, is scary, let alone unleashing an interior monologue from the dark subconscious, an unrestrained and disconnected flow of perceptions, not thoughts, of senses, not logic. And then putting these together in some coherent form.

Which is why I think of myself as a writer only sometimes, and not a great writer, just an okay narrative writer with a passion for reading and words. The blank page remains daunting, even if you’re not about to write a masterpiece, and maybe never will. It takes courage even to try.

Post a Comment