Sunday, August 27, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 21: Francois Mauriac on Overthinking Technique

Nobel laureate Francois Mauriac expressed disdain for obsessing over what he called technique, claiming that the younger novelists of his time "think a good novel ought to follow certain rules imposed from outside. In fact, however, this preoccupation hampers them and embarrasses them in their creation."

Mauriac said he eschewed formulaic writing as a means to achieving a naivete essential to the sense of spontaneity he wished his audience to experience when reading his work. "A borrowed style is a bad style," he insisted.

This simple advice is not easy to heed when analyzing one's plot, characters, narrative, and dialogue. Mauriac would suggest that an author's preconceived notions kill good stories. His admonishment might be a good impetus for free-writing, the technique of writing for a set period without attention to structure, grammar, diction, and even content.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 20: William Styron on Making a Writer's Environment

William Styron had a definite opinion on the type of environment he needed to produce: "I like company and entertainment, people around. The actual process of writing, though, demand complete, noiseless privacy, without even music; a baby howling two blocks away will drive me nuts."

Every successful writer has a conscious writing process and an ideal writing environment. Like Styron, Ernest Hemingway preferred a quiet place. August Wilson said he could write anywhere. Sam Shepard wrote longhand before typing. 

Whatever the desired environment and tools are, get them and get to work.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 19: Blaise Cendrars on Why Writers Should Not Complain

Blaise Cendrars lays down a sound wake-up call to writers who complain about how tough a craft they have: "They should talk a little more about their privileges and how lucky they are to earn some return for the practice of their art."

Any writer who has seriously practiced over an extended period knows that the craft beats most other jobs. People who make excuses for not writing would probably make excuses for most other shortcomings in their life. 

I've mentioned in WORDS ON THE LINE before: There are no shortcuts. I'll add to this maxim one other: Write more, complain less. The results have to be better.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 18: Blaise Cendrars on Writing for Oneself

When Blaise Cendrars spoke about the "fatal disappointment" of finishing a book, he was not being overly dramatic. He was referring to the blind ambition of publishing without enjoyment, explaining that he had come to creating poems in his head without writing or sharing them.  He said, "It's good so to daydream, to stammer around something which remains a secret for oneself."

Cendrars may seem egocentric or self-deluding on the surface, but writers can learn a great lesson from his thought. Writing for the sake of writing, taking pleasure in the task itself, savoring the creation of something new benefits writers enormously, transforming hours into seconds, inspiring them to wake up the next day, and urging them to get started immediately at the dawn of their new day.