Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Assembling Words

One had an epiphany last night while trying to sleep. After watching the latest season of ‘Walking Dead’ and indulging in Internet surfing, I finally got to bed at around 12 midnight but tossed and turned until 1 am where I believe I dozed off,  and finally waking at around 6 am. During the period when trying to sleep, a thought comes to mind: one does have writing talent based on feedback from other participants in the writer’s workshop last August. I don’t know how the thought just sprung up from the darkness of the night but thinking back on the workshop moments, there is a facility of words and imaginative ability to create a piece of work during the classroom exercises. There are signs of creative writing ability that can be called to fore when needed. Earlier in the day, I had listened to E.L. Doctorow’s book of essays ‘Creationists’.  Perhaps this had triggered the flow of thoughts about writing. Doctorow had excellent essays on Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Dos Passos, Mark Twain, Herman Melville and other individuals not in the writing field like Albert Einstein and the Marx Brothers.

From this thought, that if one does have writing talent, then the challenge is not a lack of training or education but of will power.  In a deeper perspective, it is the internal realization that one is a writer. As the first writing workshop facilitator told us, ‘you all are writers because you are here in this course.’ He told us to say, ’I am a writer’ to give the confidence to acknowledge what we are. It is this lack of confidence that is holding one back, not the lack of training courses or creative writing classes that one still needs to attend. It is also the procrastination that the mind indulges that prevents work. During the weekend, I brought the car for maintenance which took half a day, went swimming at the gym, and visited the fall food festival in downtown. I also continued reading the excellent biography of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune called ‘The Emperor and the Wolf’ – a 600 + page book. I also dashed through a number of documentary DVDs (on Marc Chagall, cooking, travelling Russia by river, health tips), borrowed an adventure movie called ‘Hanna’, listened to Doctorow’s ‘Creationists’, and Michael Lewis’ book ‘Money Ball.’ Earlier in the week, I had finished Philip Roth’s ‘The Dying Animal.’

Again it was a ‘high input’ week where one needed to absorb lots of information while trying to enjoy one’s time. The fall food festival was a good event where I listened to Tift Merritt - a young blond girl in a green dress wearing cowboy boots. She had a good voice like those sultry country singers. She played the guitar and keyboards. It was a nice day with lots of people walking around, good food and music. It is probably one of the best festivals that one could attend in the South. These are all distractions of course. If one was a serious writer, one would not go to the gym to swim, go to the fall festival or continue reading a book on the great Japanese filmmaker – even if he is the best film director who has ever lived. Instead, a serious writer would have sat down and tried to write. Instead, one goes on watching television or movies or listening to audio books while one drinks Bloody Mary cocktails or wine, fall asleep in the couch and live a life of indulgent mediocrity. Strangely, in a country where there is too much freedom and diversions, one wonders about living a meaningful life. There is no such free time in developing countries where one just uses his time to survive and get things going. The reverse is true in developed countries especially with minimal commute time.

I plan to complete the DVD writing course on building good sentences. The course is letting me think differently by scrambling my brain in a way that I never thought possible. Writing sentences always came easily especially in journal writing or at work. But the course has ‘deconstructed’ a seemingly natural ability by dissecting the writing of sentences. This is probably the best lesson I would ever get compared to the other courses I have or the books that I have read on the art and craft of a writer. The thought process of writing – has been on a macro level while the course on building sentences is at a micro-level which is the basic building block of a creative work – the sentence. Building sentences is the starting block – the experience is like teaching a moderately experienced carpenter how to hammer a nail. It is going back to the basics. This will remove any doubt because it feels like starting from scratch, by deconstructing the basic task of writing a sentence into a process so it can be repeated again and again.

Being a writer entails being awake. One is in slumber too long, reading too many books and blogging instead of getting actual writing experience. Craiglist has lots of opportunities for freelance writers. But instead of getting excited and trying it one still procrastinates or diverts oneself to reading more books and watching DVDs. It’s a question of confidence – perhaps one is thinking that by reading and watching more, i.e. getting more information, is the answer to gaining confidence. But one realizes that it’s a change of mindset, one that uses more energy and drive, being at play while being serious and focused. It’s different from the self-reflective nature of blogging or journal writing. Writing exercises help bring out this skill and which one has shown promise during the workshops attended. Hence, one has proven one can ride the bike, now one needs to make the journey instead of thinking about it. The feedback loop is more prevalent in this mode, being aware of the market need is the determinant of success unlike blogging or journal writing where a mute audience (or none at all) don’t provide feedback in a manner that is constructive to a creative writer.

Strangely, one possesses a certain confidence, content to fritter away the time in frivolous activities, in drinking alcohol and indulgent wasteful tasks like surfing the internet. After all, one can only focus on writing after one’s regular job. So it’s a second job and the question is: is one ready to devote one’s spare time at another job instead of relaxing after one’s day job. The answer is organization and planning. It’s going back to the principles of ‘getting things done’ by planning the next immediate task. One did not have an idea on the writer’s craft so this was a difficult activity in the past. But one has attended workshops, read books on writing and learned more about the craft – so planning the next task is now possible. It is applying the lessons learned that will do the trick.  Writing becomes a project, a process that needs to move forward step by step, instead of a task of divine inspiration.

No comments: