Tag: craft

The Right Sensation

Wallace Stevens

“Pleasure is the pleasure of the powers that create a truth that cannot be arrived at by reason alone, a truth that the poet recognizes by sensation. The morality of the poet’s radiant and productive atmosphere is the morality of the right sensation.”

Wallace Stevens

Creative Discomfort

“[…] in your life, if you’re a good artist, you have one good idea. But if you’re a genius, you maybe have two good ideas.”

Marina Abramović (quoting her professor of art history), quoted in Mason Curry’s Subtle Manouvers newsletter (11.07.22)

“[…] part of the solution is not being so precious about ideas and accepting that they’re just a starting point. The other part—maybe the bigger part—is learning to tolerate discomfort. Is that, in fact, the most important skill for any writer? (Or visual artist or musician or fill-in-the-blank creative person?) It might be. Because so much of the process is just really, really uncomfortable. It requires butting up against your own shortcomings over and over and over.”

Mason Curry, Subtle Manouvers newsletter (11.07.22)

Abandon Hope

When I think of writing for this blog I sense a hesitation to share, not out of fear, but stinginess. It’s disheartening to dedicate time and hope into a post about something that fascinates or concerns me only for the metrics to show that hardly anyone has read or responded to it. Is there anything worse to a writer? A proximate cause for those paltry view counts could be that I haven’t optimized my writing for search engines (SEO) so most people can’t find the post in the first place. But, what could be the root cause of my stinginess?  

When questioned on his (ugh) ‘method’ David Sedaris advised fellow writers to keep a diary, carry a journal and, most importantly, abandon hope. Why abandon hope? I notice that when hope goes unfulfilled it can morph into its opposite (or one of its many opposites) and begin to thwart the very thing once hoped for. My hope for praise, for thousands of views and hundreds of comments, turned against me. Why bother making the effort only to get silence in return? What else should I write for? That’s for me, and us, to find out.

 

  

Kafka on Keeping a Journal

“One advantage in keeping a diary is that you become aware with reassuring clarity of the changes which you constantly suffer and which in a general way are naturally believed, surmised, and admitted by you, but which you’ll unconsciously deny when it comes to the point of gaining hope or peace from such an admission. In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted even in sheer ignorance.”

Franz Kafka

There is No Other Way

“You become a writer by writing. There is no other way. So do it. Do it more. Do it again. Do it better. Fail. Fail better. I think it’s a good idea, especially when you’re younger, you keep your hand in by writing something everyday. So I recommend it, but it’s another one of those recommendations that I myself have been unable to follow.”

Margaret Atwood

Writing with Genuine Style

“To write a genuine familiar or truly English style is to write as anyone would speak in common conversation, who had a thorough command and choice of words, or who could discourse with ease, force, and perspicuity, setting aside all pedantic and oratorical flourishes.”

William Hazlitt

There’s No Right Age to Succeed

He’s regarded by many as one of the finest composers alive today but Philip Glass didn’t catch his big break until he turned 41. Before then he worked odd jobs as a plumber, furniture mover and a taxi driver in New York where he once picked up a group of men fleeing a store they just robbed. In-between shifts and taking his children to school he wrote music and later toured with an ensemble for weeks before returning to work. Glass said he expected to work a day job for the rest of his life.

His life story soothes my anxiety about success because, unknown to myself, I’ve carried the belief that success only comes at a certain age or it doesn’t come at all. Nice to know that isn’t the case.

Rotate Your Crops

Last week I browsed Brevity, a website dedicated to the brief essay form, and I chanced upon a blog post by Kate Walter called ‘Rotating the Writing Crops‘. After working long and hard during the pandemic to publish her memoir Kate, naturally, ran dry. Some time afterwards an editor commissioned her for an assignment and while writing it a metaphor occurred to her: farming and rotating crops.

“The writing equivalent of rotating my crops is switching genres from essays to journalism or maybe to back to fiction. I have been planting and harvesting the essays and memoir fields for decades. I realized it was necessary to let those be fallow at least for a few months. That specific soil needed to rest.”

A few months ago I was working hard on an essay of my own, but after three months work something gave out. I couldn’t continue with it. Diminishing returns. I took a while for me to recognise what happened but I took it as my body’s way of saying enough. Yes, work ethic goes a long long way in sustaining creative output, more so than inspiration, but sooner or later something will give. So, for now, I’m working on lighter (but no less loved) forms like haiku and haibun while my own essay crop lies fallow.

Favourite Haiku (2)

prayer
without words
spring rain

Bill Kenney

final resting place …
wherever
the wind decides

Michele L. Harvey

dregs in our glasses
you lay your day
on top of mine

Frank Hooven

someone’s newspaper
drifts with the snow
at 4am.

Jack Cain

searching the cupboard
for the answer
to why I opened it

Frank Dullaghan

Quotes on the Universal Struggle to Write

A few quotes on, as Robert D. Richardson put it, “the daily struggle for adequate expression”.

“Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound.”

William Goldman

“Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things that people do.”

William Zinsser

“The way to write is to throw your body at the mark when all your arrows are spent.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson