"A writer and nothing else: a man alone in a room with the English language, trying to get human feelings right. " ~John K. Hutchens, New York Herald Tribune, 10 September 1961

Friday, October 5, 2007

Back on topic

Loneliness. As a writer, that's something you have to get used to and something which only deepens over time. The recognition of it, is possibly the first step to true indifference. Personally, I've seen I only awaken to my loneliness when I'm surrounded by people I love and who undoubtedly love me (modesty is obviously not a virtue), and most acutely when I'm not writing. You know, it's odd how we classify "writing". For me, "writing" involves writing fiction - to truly put something creative out there - but really, this qualifies as writing just like writing in a daily journal and it's various, various forms does. But that's beside the point, or at least the one I'm trying to make now.

Yesterday, I went searching for how to handle writer's loneliness (it was a particularly bad day) - I have my moments of self-doubt just like the next person. It may not look it, but I am human. Anyway, so I found a set of writer's characteristics from this site which I'm going to list and discuss.

  1. The Writer doesn't have to like people, but the Writer must be profoundly, passionately interested in them.
  2. The Writer must have an equally passionate desire to make the reader see what the Writer sees, hear what the Writer hears.
  3. The Writer must be sensitive to the human condition and moved to express his/her feelings about it.
  4. The Writer must have a passion for words so that phrases, sentences, and rhythms haunt him.
  5. As a person the Writer must be profoundly committed to what the Writer is writing; as an artist the Writer must be detached from it as the Writer learns to recognize what is good and what is bad about his writing.
  6. The Writer needs to be born this morning, and again tomorrow morning. The Writer needs to look at familiar faces as if the Writer has never seen them. The Writer should drive his car to wherever the Writer is going as if it were the first time. The Writer should look at the face of the supermarket checkout girl as if she, too, was born this morning.
  7. The Writer must learn that writing is rewriting. The Writer must be able to cut away at his manuscript without quivering, to carve up his child without flinching.
  8. The Writer must acquire a deep concern for details. This concern often makes the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful story or article.
  9. A person must realize that writing is a daily routine, not the result of an occasional inspiration. The Writer has to find the time every day to sit down and write. Keeping a journal is one way of sitting down and writing. The beginning writer cannot use his job as an excuse for not writing. (In fact, why not use the job as an excuse for writing?)
  10. The Writer must realize that only a small number of writers are able to make a living by writing. There are few compared to those who have other professions, trades, or jobs.
  11. The Writer must admit, finally, that there are no excuses, that the only reason the Writer isn't writing is because the Writer doesn't want to. People write successfully everywhere, under all conditions and with all kinds of handicaps.
  12. Occasionally the Writer will stop in anguish and tell himself that everything has been said, all the tales have been told. The Writer must remind himself that the story of Romeo and Juliet had been told by an Italian writer of novellas, but that Shakespeare told it better, and that the same plot was retold later in the form of Abie's Irish Rose and again in West Side Story.
  13. The writer must learn to live with his rejection slips, use them as scrap paper, not label them "End of the World." The Writer can avoid many rejection slips by knowing the market.
  14. The writer must learn how to handle the problem of loneliness, for writing is a lonely profession. It is one road a person must walk alone.
And that's it. Some points, if not all, are absolutely valid and relate a lot to both the discussions that spring up on the site and this blog, but also questions I've been asked personally relating to writing.

On the set of links to the side, you'll notice one for Orwell's essay 'Why I Write', where he's discussed that his writing was better when fueled by a purpose, usually political and if you ever pick up any of his books, in particular 1984, you'll notice a warning resonating so clearly, made all the more important with America's "Big Brotherish" tactics. So there's #3 proved.

Points 1-3 I agree with, because you don't have to like people to write about them, but to do it successfully you have to be interested in human nature. And really, we are the most fascinating creatures. Why do you think soap operas never die? Hell, we've coined a new phrase - "teen soap operas". 90210, anyone? That the actors playing teens were in their thirties is entirely beside the point.

What is writing without words? But you don't necessarily need to be haunted by them to be a successful writer - true, nearly every writer I know has been plagued by getting the right word - I know I have. Hitting the nail on the head can get me out of bed, inches before falling asleep, it is that incumbent. But it isn't a must.

#7 - rewriting. I think a lot of today's would-be authors don't realize the severe importance of the rewritten word. When you first start out, you're just getting the idea straight, putting it to paper is the result of all the events, emotions and conversations you've been seeing in your mind. It's not a thinking story - it's a driven story, by all means - but it isn't in the right place at the right time. It needs to be hacked into, which explains #8 as well.

#s 9-11, 13 I will discuss in my next post, with a very illustrative and I believe, absolutely correct example and citation.

On to #12 - everything worth writing has already been written - has been a subject of great interest at the forums. It's true: Everything worth writing has been written, but and here's the clincher, contrary to the quote, I have my own (and it's an old one): it isn't the tale, but he who tells it. A story isn't different because it's been done before, but because I, Maryam Piracha, the Writer am writing it with my own perceptions, opinions and views. And every person, in particular every writer, sees things at a different angle, and it's that for which writing that particular story becomes absolutely necessary.

Finally, #14 - writing is by far the loneliest profession you'll ever encounter. Why? This blog provides an insightful look into the situation. Is it because nobody understands? From personal experience, that's what it was like for me, until the desi writers. But even then, even when you have the community, the feeling never truly deserts you. At the end of the day, you need to seclude yourself, to write alone, unhindered and if you can't handle it, you're just not cut out for the job at all.

Will it break you? Absolutely. Will you survive? That's up to you.


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