Saturday, May 19, 2007

thinking

When you're there, when you're in the zone, with the words coming faster than you can type, the feeling is pure exhiliration. Writing in white heat is something akin to a zen state, with your mind at full throttle, conquering the blank monitor screen with sentences that smack of grammar-be-damnedness.

It never lasts long for me - which is why I believe talent is an inconsistent thing, something no one should rely on. When the white flare subsides, when talent has done its thing, what's left is hard work and discipline: continuing what has been begun, ekeing out meaning from a few brilliant phrases, cementing a line of dialogue with craftwork.

Some will advise to write in white heat and edit in cold blood. That's fine, obviously. It makes sense not to waste that moment of pure inspiration - you cannot not write. But it is more important to also learn how to write in cold blood, when inspiration is nowhere in a sight. It is not true that the cold-blooded writer is more remote or distant (as if that is a bad thing in writing). On the contrary, someone who crafts when there is no inspiration is sort of a purer writer, aware of the emptiness, relying on discipline and everything learned from the craft of writing to finish the story.

It takes longer at the start because we are conditioned into thinking: I will only write when I feel like it; or I will only create when I am inspired; or I will only put words down on paper when I have an beautiful idea. It is worthwhile to train oneself to write regardless of mood, time of day or personal circumstance. To disdain the notion of a "writer's block" and confront the true reasons why one chooses not to write: I am lazy; or I'd rather watch TV or play a game or read a book; or I am frightened I truly have nothing to say.

Sloth can be dealt with. Distractions can be shut down. But the thought of having nothing to say is absurd. Not everything one writes needs to be something completely new, birthed to a stunned universe. Small truths are just as powerful as big ones. Small ideas are just as potent as the awesome ones that changed the world. Writers are human in the first place (an obvious thing sometimes forgotten in all the bluster of activity) and as such are perfectly capable of observations of what makes them (and the people around them) human. What we render into our fictions are truths, half-truths, white lies and things we see or imagine we feel - but consider that in the realm of fiction-making and storytelling, everything starts out as true. When we consider agenda (that act of infusing our writing with a secret or not-so-secret raison d'etre), then we immediately have something to do while we write, creating an engagement between idea and words and the text. We always have something to say - it is for the reader to determine its significance, mundane or otherwise.

To return to what I was initially talking about: I think that the best stories, the best-written fictions,are those that are crafted in cold blood; the architecture and wirework rendered invisible, the words well selected, the idea elegantly presented. It doesn't seem crafted and could be believed to be a work of white heat, a tribute to the hardworking author's discipline.

It is something I strive for.

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