Do not ask who I am and do not ask me to remain the same.
More than one person, doubtless like me,
writes in order to have no face.

Michel Foucault

Monday, August 13, 2012

WRITING IS NOT LEARNING HOW TO RIDE A BICYCLE


During a small dinner gathering, a friend said, “Writing, to some, is an art. To others it is a craft.” His point? Most people are not born writers and need to learn while others seemingly grasp the concept of prose with little effort. My argument is, a writer is a writer—an artist of colloquy—regardless of formal education. Granted, some will argue one will need the basic language to create readable prose, and I won’t argue, but my view has always dictated, writing is an art form that cannot be taught. That said; I believe one could improve their ability to create a writing style through repetitive behaviors and influence and thus expand their inborn talent—the key word phrase: inborn talent. Just look back at your first attempt and how far you have come today, but is it as simple as, get an MFA and see yourself published in a few years? I think not. Can one take some creative writing courses at their junior college and emerge a Twain, Whitman, Fitzgerald, Shaw, Dinesen, Williams, Morrison, Keats?

I began writing in my teens. My guess is most writers followed the same path. Today, if you participate in any writer related activity, you will find the “memoir” writer. The memoir writers are easy to spot; it’s the graying head of hair in the room with the anxious look. They believe they have something to say, and now, a decade or two before they expire, there is a burning desire to put it on paper. Do I sound cruel? I know I do, but I would never discourage them in that family members will probably be interested. Of course, other times, I just want to scream.

So to prove my point to my friend, I go to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his writing as an example. Here is an excerpt from LOVE in the TIME of CHOLERA. Next is an example of what many writers would choose to write.

"At one window the splendor of dawn was just beginning to illuminate the stifling, crowded room that served as both bedroom and laboratory, but there was enough light for him to recognize at once the authority of death. The other windows, as well as every other chink in the room, were muffled with rags or sealed with black cardboard, which increased the oppressive heaviness."

64 words

Your writing - In the morning, when I arrived, the room was dark and I could see a dying man.

17 words

"A counter was crammed with jars and bottles without labels and two crumbling pewter trays under an ordinary light bulb covered with red paper. The third tray, the one for the fixative solution, was next to the body. There were old magazines and newspapers everywhere, piles of negatives on glass plates, broken furniture, but everything was kept free of dust by a diligent hand."

64 words

Your writing - The room was a mess.

5 words

Where can you learn to write prose like Gabriel Garcia Marquez? (Granted, some will argue the second example could be Hemingway.) Only through practice, reading, and your own talent can one develop this rhythm and flow, the ebb and tide of creative prose. It

Before one thinks Hemingway did not carry on… "One cup of it took the place of the evening papers, of all the old evenings in cafés, of all chestnut trees that would be in bloom now in this month, of the great slow horses of the outer boulevards, of book shops, of kiosques, and of galleries, of the Parc Montsouris, of the Stade Buffalo, and of the Butte Chaumont, of the Guarangy Trust Company and the Ile de la Cité, of Foyot's old hotel, and of being able to read and relax in the evening; of all things he had enjoyed and forgotten and that came back to him when he tasted that opaque, bitter, tongue-numbing, brain-warming, stomach-warming, idea-changing liquid alchemy."

Seriously dude? That’s 113 words in 1 sentence.

And it is not only the beauty of expression through Marquez or the ability to seemingly write narrative like Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath: “To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.”

Some would simply write, “It was raining.”

It is the innate capacity to create prose that gives a fullness and yet provide narrative scarce in word that, I believe, cannot be taught. If you can convince me that a learning institution can teach an inspiring writer to create prose like this, you win.

Until then…

2 comments:

  1. I'm glad it's not like riding a bike because I never learned to ride a bike. Seriously.

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  2. Point taken and understood. Writing is easy, telling a story is an art. We are all taught to write, but is it something others would enjoy reading. To tell a story, adding interest and texture, that's what make an author's story worth reading. Many writers write, but being able to tell an intelligible story with depth, feeling and substance is the gift of being an author.

    I can write, but I am no author.

    Best of luck Uncle Steve.

    Your nephew, Bill

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