Thursday, August 21, 2014

August 21 2014. It’s a pity that, “All that matters is what you leave on the page,” is too long to be a title. It says it all! From blog into book—time to start structuring my book on writing. Time to reach out and help, also. Every writer needs help the first time around—and it rarely stops there. And it shouldn’t.

Don’t romanticize your ‘vocation.' You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle.' All that matters is what you leave on the page.

Zadie Smith

A writer, like an athlete, must 'train' every day. What did I do today to keep in 'form'?

Susan Sontag

Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

Kurt Vonnegut

Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it... It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else.

George Orwell

The one thing I don’t like about blogging is that the very structure of a blog website tends to focus on the current blog to the detriment of earlier blogs. That’s a good and necessary thing—but perhaps too much of one. Yes, you can drill down, but it is not quite as easy as it should be to read through all the blogs on one subject. Besides, they are not necessarily written to develop concepts in a coherent, linked, fashion.

I tend to think of my blogs as a bunch of extended haiku. No, they are not literally haiku, of course, but I try and write them in the spirit of one insight—written with skill, vigor and speed—and not necessarily connected (though I do follow themes).

It’s an image that appeals to me.

Do I always achieve that?

I doubt it very much—though I have become much faster—but such is what I have in mind.

All of this a long-winded way of saying that I have decided to assemble my thoughts on writing into book form. That is not a new thought—I had previously written fairly extensively on writing for my old web site (where it built up quite a following). The difference now is that I have a much clearer idea of my target audience and how I can best be of use.

I’m particularly concerned to discuss the very nature of wring itself. On the one hand, we all know what writing is—or think we do—but I’m far from sure we really appreciate its significance. If we did, we might be tempted to stay with it longer.

My primary concern is to help writers to keep going. In particular, there is a phase you reach before you are published when you are not yet as good as you need to be—and you know it—and your book is not yet as advanced as it needs to be. At that point, it is extremely tempting to think you have over-reached—and just drop the whole thing.

In truth, you probably have over-reached—and your writing may still be mediocre. But that’s not the point. The real thing you fail to understand is that it is only by over-reaching that you get better—and practically every writer goes through such a phase.

KEEP WRITING—AND YOU WILL GET BETTER! Not enough people believe that.

That grim phase is roughly akin to the notorious Wall that Marathon runners encounter after 18 miles or so. However, it is much harder to get through because you don’t have a bunch of other runners around you—explicitly or implicitly encouraging you to continue (let alone cheering onlookers)—and a marathon lasts only hours whereas writing a book may take years. It also has a clear-cut finishing line—whereas a book does not.

“Art is never finished, only abandoned,” sums it up. The man who said that knew what he was talking about. His name was Leonardo da Vinci. He designed weapons—and painted a bit. Do you know he designed the first tank? True story.

It’s helpful to have a mentor throughout the writing of your first book—but at this point—when you are flagging—your are in particular need of a helping hand.

I want to help you get it.

I’ve been though just such a scenario as described—so I am entirely sympathetic.

I’m also hatching some specific ideas on how to do this. They will be in the book.

By the way, I already have a title. Books are not babies. A book needs to be named as fast as possible after conception. Hard to focus on the thing otherwise.

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