Saturday, May 21, 2011

Authentic Fiction

Creative writing compared to journal writing feels like being dishonest. It does not feel authentic. But that’s the point. It’s fiction after all. Journaling is authentic because it’s supposed to be a place to write one’s true feelings. Perhaps it’s like those opinion columns in news papers or magazines. The works of Hemingway feels authentic; something like the expression of the author’s true feelings in the character. It’s a subtle deception because one thinks it’s a personal journal or diary. Hemingway’s work is an intriguing mix of ‘stream of consciousness’ writing ala James Joyce and third person narrative. So an early reading of Hemingway fools novice writers into thinking that writing authentically is like writing a journal or diary. Hence, the true craft of writing is lost because one would think that it’s just an inspired burst of prose similar to diary writing. The long painstaking work is not seen in the so-called ‘effortless’ prose of Hemingway.

Hemingway always said that one should write about what one knew in order to be authentic. So this contributes to the deception because one thinks only about the self-centered reality that one is exposed to. But Hemingway was a reporter exposed to wide experiences and evolved from his journalist’s life. He was not a diarist. After attending the 10-day creative writing session and going through the text book from Gotham writer’s school, one realizes that creative fiction is a whole different animal. It’s a different avenue of expression. Journal writing is about self-analysis, reflection and thinking while creative fiction is about play, imagination and invention. The modes of thought are different although the mechanical task of putting words to paper exists. I guess the benefit of journal writing is the practice of self expression and stimulating one’s creativity especially if done via blogging.

Creative fiction is about creating a whole new world. Often times it’s a world beyond the experience of the diarist or journal writer. Imagination is the key ingredient with confidence and a facility with words are complimenting skills. Make believe or the suspension of disbelief is the intended goal. In the class, I revised an old unfinished story that I had done long ago and presented to the class. Most people said it was a good short story with suggested improvements in grammar and ways to ‘show instead of tell’ to make it a better work. I realized it sounded more like an outline of a novel which needed to be fleshed out. One was telling instead of showing. Some of the brief sentences could even be expanded into several chapters. The fact that one could look at this work dispassionately was an improvement in itself.

I like the class although I should have spent more time doing the exercises in the book. It was a good session. It allowed one to meet other aspiring writers, share works and read out one’s prose. Sharing one’s work has a cathartic effect similar to the public speaking experience in Toastmaster. Listening to one’s own words or seeing others read one’s work increases one’s confidence. One is led out of the solitary experience and neurotic churning thoughts when one participates in the open light amongst friendly people. I have always thought that the Toastmaster experience and creative writing sessions are both necessary components in the journey towards finding one’s voice. Blogging or journal writing plus extensive reading is part of the overall journey to be a writer. The writer needs to develop the creative writing mindset to succeed.

There is a lot of free stuff out there that will help. Websites, writing tools, creative writing seminars are free or offered at low cost, events in the library like meeting authors or Scribblers where one can share one’s writing are cheap ways to learn about the craft. One just needs to start writing and produce some work to kick things off. One often feels that one is too late with one’s age and circumstances in life. But there is a free seminar today called ‘Writing after Fifty’ which seems to address this exact concern. I hope I could attend as it’s a fitting end to the creative writing session that I finished this week. Next week I am attending a six hour session on stock market trading. I had never planned to be a stock trader but the cheap price is attractive to further one’s financial literacy.

Stock trading with all its sophisticated tools like moving averages or stochastic methods or candle sticks, etc. are the modern equivalent to the intuitive techniques of Jesse Livermore - the legendary stock trader who lived in the 1920’s. The class has a session on options which was the subject that I really want to learn. Other topics will serve as preparation to speculate if one has the time and money to do daily trading. All this learning activities elevates one’s skill since one should be constantly challenged to move forward. One thinks that one will be rich and famous with creative writing but it will be a long and lonely road. (Sometimes one writes to learn what one is thinking). Stock trading is another alternative to earn money but it’s still fraught with uncertainties. Nevertheless, one needs to increase skills for the future. Other avenues like creating Android apps or starting a business are other ways to create alternative income streams.

Several thresholds were crossed in recent months. Going live in the project, learning new things in the computer and business fields, training and supporting applications in this country is a significant milestone for me. Completing a creative writing course and participating in the local Toastmaster club as an officer is another milestone in this place. Completing a stock trading course is another. It’s a step forward in my new home. Now following Stephen Covey’s principles, one needs to add new areas to achieve holistic growth. Some alternatives are cooking, kayaking, tennis, yoga and creating videos to post in YouTube. I was thinking of starting a new blog about cooking but having many sites to maintain will be a challenge. One should be ready to see new blog entries about cooking in this site soon.

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