Monday, March 12, 2007

How to Become a Writer

Posted by Lisa

This is homework. From Grace Talusan's wonderful weekend course at Grub Street. It's called A to Z writing. You'll see what I mean.

Albert Einstein made a mistake. Big one it turns out. Cosmic in size, actually.

Don't believe me?

Expansion of the universe is accepted as fact now, pretty much. Funny thing is that Einstein, the brightest bulb in the history of science, didn't buy into the big bang. Georges Lamaitre, a French Catholic Priest who studied the skies, came to visit Einstein in the early 1900's, bringing his big bang theory along.

"Hogwash." (It's rumored Einstein muttered this, and more, when Lamaitre tried to convince him the universe is expanding).

"Just listen," Lamaitre pleaded with Einstein in his broken English. "Keep believe the universe is static and the world not learn the truth."

Let me explain to you what this has to do with writing, and yes, it has much to do with writing. Mostly, you need to accept your flaws, as Einstein did, later, much later. Not one of us is perfect. Occasionally, a writer comes along with no formal training, no history of failures (no manuscripts, novel length or flash fiction, in that bottom drawer), but this writer is one in a million. People in my writers’ group, close friends each of them, helped me change my idea of who I think a writer is.

Quite a few people try to write, sending a short story to a literary journal, penning the first few chapters of a thriller or a quiet literary novel. Really though, a writer must write, and not only write, but write well (as Miss Snark would say), recognizing his strengths and weaknesses and working to overcome weaknesses and draw upon strengths. Simple, isn't it?

Too many of us embrace the joy of writing, those enchanting moments when a subconcious haunting is pondered, relived, and brought to life on the page. Understand, please understand, there is more to writing than euphoric visits from your Muse when the words you drop on the page, dance together seamlessly, a delight to discover. Very rarely that happens.

Whoever says writing is easy is lying. X-Files, that TV show from the nineties, always fascinated me. You knew, in each episode, that nothing would come easy to Mulder and Scully. Zest for your writing, longing each day to capture the Muse, must never overlook the days the Muse won't let herself be caught.

Choosing each letter of the alphabet consecutively for the first word in a 26 line piece of writing is a challenge. It forces you to carefully select your words. It encourages you to know the ending; you have to plan ahead to hit those tricky ending letters. The end result is more varied writing. Short sentences, long ones. This is an eye opener in prose structure. (Thanks, Grace)
Let my writing from this day forward never be dull or predictible!
By the way, the Muse for this piece of writing came from my first grade son's science project: The Big Bang and the Scientists that Discovered It.

6 comments:

Therese said...

Lisa, this is brilliant! Cogent, seamless, and pertinent!

I'm so impressed. :)

Viva vivid, unpredictable writing.

spyscribbler said...

That is SO cool! I am impressed, too!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

What a pleasure. And makes it all the more clear that it's not a parlor trick, but an exercise in precision.

Robert Pinksy wrote a haunting poem, called

ABC

Anybody can die, evidently. Few
Go happily, irradiating joy,

Knowledge, love. Many
Need oblivion, painkillers,
Quickest respite.

Sweet time unafflicted,
Various world:
X = your zenith.


When I heard him read, he did this one only after being asked. He said he the equal sign always
bothered him.

(A brief comment--done earnestly. From giggling
Hank.)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

What a pleasure. And makes it all the more clear that it's not a parlor trick, but an exercise in precision.

Robert Pinksy wrote a haunting poem, called

ABC

Anybody can die, evidently. Few
Go happily, irradiating joy,

Knowledge, love. Many
Need oblivion, painkillers,
Quickest respite.

Sweet time unafflicted,
Various world:
X = your zenith.


When I heard him read, he did this one only after being asked. He said the equal sign always
bothered him.

(A brief comment--done earnestly. From giggling
Hank.)

The Writers' Group said...

Hank - Thanks for leaving Robert Pinsky's creative poem. Even though I struggled through writing that A to Z blog piece, it took me a few seconds to clue in that each word started with a consecutive alphabet letter in this poem.
And Therese and Sky Scribbler, thanks for the supportive comments. We all need to have a novel challenge now and then. And words of encouragement are nice too!

Lisa

Larramie said...

An absolute delight to read, then reflect on the skill required to accomplish it. You certainly met the challenge, Lisa, and Einstein must be smiling!