An “on writing” piece is typically reserved for the experienced, well-traveled writer. A man or woman who has been beset by a strong desire to succeed with the written word. Success of course is not defined by the number of readers or the money earned, but by the feeling an individual gets when the moment is all said and done. Writers, who may or may not be defined as successful, use the “on writing” pieces to convey their knowledge of the process and their manner of approach to those who would wish to hear them out. Again, I return to the understanding that most of these such pieces are a byproduct of years of writing as the dominate force in their life.
Aside from family and friends naturally.
I wanted to write my own version of “on writing” not because I believe myself to be a successful writer in the traditional sense of the word (published, known, influential etc..), but because today’s society has afforded me the luxury of being able to do so with the satisfaction of knowing I can jettison my words out into the digital space just as readily as anyone else.
So, what exactly is an “on writing” prose?
I would surmise that “on writing” to be a gathering of internal perspective on the writing process that governs how an individual puts pen to paper and crafts a palatable work. Meaning, can it be read, should it be read and finally, must it be read. Must it be read is the ultimate goal of any writer who desires their work to be shared. But the baseline for writers, such as myself, seems to be the “can it be read” level of understanding.
The words you put to paper have to be placed in a manner that is congruent with the audience you wish to engage. If that audience is internal, then that’s easy. You write what drives you to write. If you want to expand that audience, then it above all else must make sense to at least one other person. For me, that is the challenging part because it becomes a balancing act between what must be written and what I want to write. What must be written is the foundation of a sentence that allows it to be properly understood by the targeted audience. If you make up a word for the purposes of a story, then you are going to have to explain it eventually. Internally, you may know exactly what galaporpal means, but the reader cannot begin to find the root of your imagination without context. Authors like JR Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin and J.K Rowling managed to create worlds and explain each detail that the reader might need to know.
This leads me to my next point about writing: Interpersonal imagination. If you haven’t heard of that phrase good, because I just made it up. It was a phrase that I decided to use as the best means to describe how important it is to understand that the infrequency of the audience being on the exact same page as you when it comes to your imagination. This becomes especially true when finding beta readers or individuals you utilize to read and critique your book. Find someone similar for sure but find an individual who wants to expand your imagination. Being on the same page isn’t necessarily a good thing and while it might seem ideal to have remarkably similar interpersonal imaginations, I feel it is a major blow to my internal process to do so.
Answering the what’s it about question
A question I get from time to time is “how do you know what to write about?” Well, my best response is, I don’t really know. Depends on the mood, the time of year, recent interests, things I’ve seen, or the time spent in my own head. Writers are dependent on a variety of factors that help determine what he or she should write about. Some follow the old adage of writing what they know. Example, if you are a painter then you should write about painting. This is a fine approach and if it works for you then by all means do that. Writing for me though is a deviation from what I know. I know about healthcare compliance and that is how I feed my family and buy my whiskey, but I do not wish to bring it into my imagination. As I said there are a variety of things a writer uses to gather the ingredients to write. My best source of inspiration is through reading the work of others and studying their approach to story telling then, because I drive a lot for work, I can piece my own imaginative thoughts into a structure that I can begin to use. Does this answer the question of “how do I know what to write about?” Nope, not at all and that’s okay.
Passion is passion whether silent or loud
One thing that I’ve noticed as I’ve waded further and further into the world of writing is that there is a mixed bag of emotions when it comes to authorship. Twitter is a wonderful ecosystem to be studied for writers. Some will spill their hearts out to strangers, others will watch in quiet contemplation and even more never engage another soul about their works. I like to fall somewhere in between, but the point of bringing this up is that some writers may fall into a trap. They will see people saying they shed tears over their work and that they jump for joy when they complete a manuscript. Honestly, I do neither. That’s not a judgement on those individuals who do get emotionally involved with their work. Actually, quite the contrary. Kudos to them for finding a passion that motivates them above and beyond. At the risk of sounding like a callous cynic I feel I should explain myself.
Who do you write for?
I write for me and me alone.
The words that spill forth are for the pleasure and benefit of my life. I am happy to see others enjoy what I do and do enjoy praise, but I will not shed a tear for something I consider to be enjoyment. Like watching a movie or playing a video game, I get a sense of peace when I write. Should the day come I get published I may jump for joy or throw back an extra beer, but the uproar over writer’s block or the struggle to put the thought to paper, isn’t something that overly affects me. I get writer’s block that’s for certain, but because of the current status of my writing I cannot afford it mentally to get concerned. If I find myself doing it to pay the bills or put food on the table that’s when I’ll have to get crazy.
Writing is the process of taking your thoughts and making them part of your permanence.
What you write is part of you and when you are dead and gone only your words will remain. It’s a gloomy way to look at it or an amazing phenomenon of humanity, but either way it’s true. People will argue that a picture will be the last representation of who you are for those left behind, but I say that words trump images. When we discuss our loved ones, we remember the things they did and say more often than their image. The memories we gain are through words most of all.
Don’t become self-conscious by the idea that your words will outlive. That might prompt a writer to tread carefully when delivering a message. Trust me, I’ve written short stories that cross the boundary between sane and creativity with mixed feelings. Scenes of violence or sexuality that have the potential to draw ponder from the audience about who I truly am.
Is he a sadist?
How could he think of that horrible death scene?
Why does the bad guy sometimes win in his writings?
Is he a closet lover of BDSM?
The answers to those are no, just because, change feels good and only on Thursdays.
But really it is just part of the creative process and that goes back to that permanence. People will remember you more for the things you do and the words you say than who you truly might be. There’s no way around that fact and when it comes to writing you’ve got to embrace it.
I’m going to close this with a thought:
I write for many reasons (as I disclosed above), but I write most of all because I enjoy it. I enjoy emptying my imagination onto a sheet of paper and watching the words dance before me until they form into a sometimes-coherent collection of sentences. In a way writing is like watching a tree grow. The tree grows from a tiny seed and ideally that seed gets to be the might oak. But more often than not it is a limp version of a tree that either cuts milled into lumber, eaten by insects or dies beneath the canopy of the shade from the trees that did grow.
Morbid I know but think of it this way. If you did not plant the seed, then you would never know if it could grow.