Sunday, October 7, 2007

Reading on Writing

This blog is about several different essays on writing, written by a three particular authors:
-From Anne Lamont’s book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life: “Getting Started”, “Short Assignments”, “Shitty First Drafts” and “Perfectionism”
-Kurt Vonnegut: “How to Write with Style”
-Amy Tan: A section of The Opposite of Fate: Memories of Writing Life
-From Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write: “Begin” and “Bad Writing”

It’s always enjoyable to read about the various tactics and approaches famous writers take on in their own writing, but it was somewhat disappointing to see that there wasn’t much there that I hadn’t read before. Frankly, the only bit of advice that really stuck out to me as different was Vonnegut’s praise of a person’s “first language”, and how that can really stick out when it’s smoothly adapted into another language. I never really realized that, but it makes complete sense. I’ve read a lot of books of writers who have taken on English as a second or third language, or whose writing has been translated over, and it can be amazing how boldly they challenge the norms of English writing.
For example, I recently read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s classic One Hundred Years of Solitude. The story plays around with subjects that are taboo in any cultures, but it also incorporates that “magic realism”; something you don’t see in much Nobel Prize-winning literature, something that gives the whole novel an extra layer of originality. And even when you look at that conversion of language, there’s that underlying dusty tone throughout the book. His writing reminds me of Steinbeck (articulate and strong structure telling a surprisingly depressing story), but then again, it’s easy to pick out differences between the two writers.
As far as Anne Lamont and Julia Cameron’s advice: I’ve always been a firm supporter of the “I just don’t give a fuck” attitude when it comes to starting out. As a guy whose solitary goal is to write a book, I find it important that writer’s write at different levels in the world of writing. While I’ve been writing for fun since third grade, I realize that I still need to improve on so many levels it’s almost disgusting. Not to say that I lack ego when it comes to my work, because I certainly do, but only because I am constantly practice different fields of writing.
It’s important that writers, when they can, practice those different fields of writing: journalism, creative non-fiction, creative fiction, poetry, and most definitely journaling.
Journaling is the essential “I just don’t give a fuck” style because you are free to write whatever you want without worry that someone will come across it and judge you (as long as you don’t leave your work lying about, or if you commit some illegal activities and then they pull up your journal to prove that it was all premeditated). Even if a writer chooses to stick to their particular field, then they should at least journal every now and then, I tend to think it can help a ton with one’s own personal development as a person and as a writer. And it’s always an emotional experience looking back at all of your adventures and hopes from days long gone by.
Also, having read several different books on writing, I think it's important that every wannabe writer read Stephen King's On Writing because that book can truly change one's perspective on the craft.

No comments: