Friday, October 29, 2010

Segway to Novel Writing

In the past weeks I have attended 2 writing workshops. I plan to attend more. I used to scoff at the idea of workshops, preferring the romantic picture of a lone writer genius, slaving away at work. This is the illusion one gets reading Hemingway. In fact, Hemingway was a working journalist who crafted his style with day to day journalism. Following the 10,000 hour rule, Hemingway would have gotten the required allotment in his newspaper work and his creative writing work. He also had good mentors or guides like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and Maxwell Perkins – the legendary editor who also helped writers like Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald. So Hemingway was no lone genius but someone who had actual writing experiences plus a host of gifted writers who helped and guided him.

The romantic notion of the writer is debunked by Ayn Rand in her series of essays on fiction writing. Ayn Rand is often called the mentor of the far-right, extolling ideas like objectivism or capitalism in its most extreme form. Not someone I would normally look up to. But her experience in collectivism has brought her to the point where romantic notions like communism could never really work in real life. So she can be seen as a realist and so she brought her steely eyed, unblinking look to novel writing. She had indeed written some good books of fiction which I confess I have not read. The books are well regarded by some and she serves as the inspiration for gifted people like Alan Greenspan – the musician turned economist turned consultant turned presidential adviser turned Federal Reserve chairman.      

Ayn Rand seems to be the guiding light for the current libertarian movement. “I am John Galt’ signs appear in Tea Party gatherings (where John Galt is a hero in one of her novels). Anyway, it is her insight on writing that I particularly like. It’s a no-nonsense hard look on the art of writing that has cured me of my romanticism. But after that insight, I find that I am unable to move forward. So here comes the great event – one’s discovery of writing workshops. Workshops are everywhere here, offered at different budgets. I am glad to have reached here at the time of my reflections on writing. It has come at a right time as I seem to be turning into myself, becoming neurotic and self absorbed. Workshops allow you to go out of yourself, where writing exercises – doing them and reading your work – feels like being at play. One realizes that writing is a joyful experience and not some angst-filled endeavor.

It feels like being on the speedway to become a novelist. I was so proud or arrogant or even naive to reject all sorts of help that I rejected workshops or enrolling in creating writing courses. One has missed the mark of youthful achievement – writing the great books in one’s twenties or thirties. Unfortunately, one heads to middle age having done nothing except writing journals and blogs and discovering workshops. But all is not lost because one is in a land where one can start anew. It’s a birthright in this country and one is like a child ready to try out the latest new thing. It’s this extraordinary ability for renewal that is unique. Everyone has a second chance no matter his age or education and I am glad that one would discover the joy of workshops even at middle age.

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