Thursday, September 24, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I have never really fit in very well, so it is no surprise that I've had trouble thinking of myself as a senior citizen. There's a stereotype of the Golden Ager (one of dozens of euphemisms for old people) which involves hobbies, cookies and gardening. My garden is neglected, I don't knit very well, and I only brag a little about my grandchildren.
When life has turned your cry of pleasure
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
“I wish I could write.” I hear this all the time. “I wish I could play the piano.” And I say (or think) “Well, why don’t you?”
Everybody has a story. Telling this story in words, paint, dance, music is a good thing in many ways. It breaks through the isolation so many people feel; it may teach; it may inspire. It doesn’t matter that other people have told the same story, because each person has his or her own point of view.
But how do you do it?
In newswriting, it’s a matter of telling something: Who, what, when, where, how.
But in fiction-writing, journaling, poetry (not to mention painting, sculpture and music) it is much more a matter of showing.
As an exercise, take an object, say a coin dug up while hoeing the garden, and write twenty thoughts about it.
1. It is a metal coin.
2. It seems to come from another country.
3. It is probably silver. It is not gold.
4. It seems to be English or Australian.
5. It is small.
6. There is a picture of Queen Elizabeth on the coin.
7. The date on the coin is 1973.
Now you see the difficulty in coming up with twenty thoughts. Already we are in the area of speculation: Did someone deliberately bury this coin? Who? Why? Was the coin lost? Who by? All sound proceeds from silence, and much good writing proceeds from mystery.
A trilogy by the great Canadian writer Robertson Davies begins with a snowball which has a rock inside.
Looking closely at something, almost anything, primes the pump for creative activity. It is just as simple as can be. It's even simpler if you have something you really want to say. Then it is more a matter of paring away the nonessential.
You notice that I have not mentioned spelling or grammar. This is craft, and I have been talking about art. Bad spelling, bad grammar and punctuation tell things about their user which that user would rather not have known. And if the writer has any hopes of success in a college essay, a job interview, or published work, there simply isn’t any way around writing the best you can in your native language. Many manuscripts have been rejected the first time an editor came across a possessive its with an apostrophe.
I have been writing, either as a job or for simple pleasure, for quite a long time. I love to tell a story, and I love to hear other people tell theirs. What's yours?