Monday, April 4, 2011
C is for Craft
Writing is a craft. The more you do it, the better you get at it. As one of my writing friends wrote, "I understand that my next novel will be better, and then the one after that will be better than the last." This is one of the things that excites me about writing: it is--and I am--a perpetual work-in-progress. We have room to grow and improve and develop new techniques.
Acknowledging that we have room to grow--that not every sentence, every paragraph, every page will be perfect--allows us to continue this crazy task of making stuff up and putting it down on paper (or screen). An article at Salon.com discusses writer's block (and Hollywood's fascination with it). Its author, Laura Miller, quotes a study that suggests that "beyond a certain point, the more difficult a writing task, and the more you think it matters, the more likely you are to become blocked." Writer's block, therefore, is "more likely rooted in fear."
Getting over that fear, getting over that desire for perfection, is what finally allowed me to start and continue my writing projects. My creative writing teacher freshman year used to say, "Kill your darlings" (and he was quoting another giant, Mark Twain or William Faulkner). If there's something that you've written that you love, it's probably out of place; there's a good chance it interrupts the flow of your writing. Get rid of it, these men suggest. (Of course, like any rule, there are exceptions. Sometimes I like ending a chapter on a "darling." Sometimes I want a sentence to linger in the reader's head, echoing like a ghost.) But, more importantly, they imply that writing isn't sacred. Until a reader comes along to bring meaning to these squiggly symbols, there is no story; there is no novel.
So practice your craft. Experiment with point-of-view and narrative voice. Create characters you don't like. Be a better writer today than you were yesterday, and be a better writer tomorrow than you are today.