Friday, 2 November 2012

Writing About Writing

If a picture paints a thousand words, then we wouldn't bother writing at all. We'd just send each other little pictures. Oh no, wait, that's Facebook.

When I was a child, after each birthday and Christmas, my mother used to sit me down with a writing pad (remember those?) and make me write thank-you letters to all those kind souls who had sent me gifts. It was like pulling teeth. I would get as far as "Thank you for my...." and dry up. She would urge me to flesh it out a bit, perhaps with news of what I had been doing lately, how I was getting on at school, and so on. I hated it. Yes, I was grateful for their thoughtfulness and generosity, and I generally loved what I had been given, but I was sure it really wasn't worth it, because it led to writing all these damn letters.

What was so hard about it? It was just a few lines.

At school my teachers despaired of me. The consensus was that I had a special skill, an ability with written English that was years ahead of my peers, and an actual talent with words that only a few had naturally. Couldn't be taught, but could be encouraged. The problem being the effort required to actually extract it from me. My output, therefore, was always the bare minimum.

At home, in private, it was a completely different matter. In my own time I wrote endlessly, and when one rather more enlightened teacher heard about this, she suggested that in class I could write on whatever interested me. She still didn't get very much, because that demand for this much writing by this date, just turned me right off.

Nothing has ever changed. As soon as a requirement or a deadline appears on the horizon, my muse, already fickle, goes into hiding. On a few rare occasions she has been dragged back out, kicking and screaming, and told to sit there and damn well produce something. Generally though, she is a very flighty creature. She comes when she comes.

After years of procrastination, I have accepted this, and even see a benefit. Apart from the very best writers out there, most people write rubbish when forced. Those who accept writing challenges from their peers or from various groups they belong to, rarely come up with anything actually worthwhile. Those who do, would have done so anyway.

The fact of the matter is that some write better than others. We all have different skills, and some have a talent for playing the violin. Nobody expects just anyone to be able to pick it up and become proficient, no matter how hard they try. You can teach the basic set of skills required, but to actually get music out of it that is a pleasure to listen to takes far more.

This is why I don't get involved in writing groups, competitions, or even just commenting on creative writing on blogs. I do mine, you do yours, and somebody else can be the critic. All of that is more about ego than writing anyway. I am told that even simple blogs are often agonized over by the writers, and are not just brain dumps like mine. Each to their own, but I prefer to save my serious writing for something potentially profitable.

We are all different, that's the thing, and none of it is wrong. We all write for different reasons, different needs. There's no right or wrong way to do it, just preference, and just as I can't hold a tune in a bucket but still enjoy singing, there is no reason why bad writers shouldn't write. Just so long as I don't have to read it.

1 comment:

  1. I SO hear you! I have exactly the same problem, if it is one. I love writing and take pleasure in finding the right words. The moment duty enters the equation, I freeze. Since you speak that language, it becomes perfectly clear when seen through the lens of astrology. The Sun/Mercury/Jupiter/Pluto stellium (from 27 Cancer to 6 Leo) with Mercury in show-off Leo indicates the joy in writing. The moment Saturn in any form kicks in, The Moon as ruler of the third house, square Saturn, becomes involved and all is lost. The blogging medium gives me great pleasure.