In today’s Journal
* It’s Much Easier
* Of Interest
It’s Much Easier
Over at the Kill Zone Blog a day ago, James Scott Bell posted an interesting question: “Should Writing Be Easy?”
Naturally, I commented. Of course writing is easy. You’re sitting alone in a room, making stuff up. What could be easier than that?
But I wasn’t quite that flippant in my actual comment. I wrote that, “Writing is easy (and fun!) for those who are able to trust their creative subconscious and not allow the conscious, critical mind to second-guess them and shut them down.”
Which of course started a little firestorm, which is silly. You either trust your creative subconscious or you don’t. No skin off my teeth either way. I’m just putting it out there to let folks know what’s possible. I really should leave my matches at home when I go visiting. (grin)
Anyway, after I’d read or skimmed the other comments, I left another comment, basically agreeing that “Yes, learning the craft is a good idea.” And reallyl, to believe otherwise is inane. But should a guy who’s written over 65 novels and over 200 short stories have to say “Yes, learning the craft is a good idea”? Sigh.
But I’ve noticed over the past few years that somehow, some of the folks who frequent TKZ got the idea that we who write into the dark do so willy-nilly with no thought at all to structure, pacing, and other matters of Craft.
And that’s just silly. Of course we consider those things. We just don’t consider them consciously while we’re writing. We don’t stop in the middle of a scene to look up a reference about what should be included in a scene.
Anyway, after I left the second comment, I promised to write a longer post on the topic here at the Journal today just in case anyone over there wants to stop by.
But a disclaimer—my thoughts here apply only to what I consider regular fiction, by which I mean stories that the writer makes up of whole cloth, so not “true crime” or “based on fact” or even “historical fiction,” for which I assume the writing process is different. I don’t write them, so I can’t comment. As for writing regular fiction, here are my thoughts:
First, yes, by all means, anyone who aspires to grow and improve in the craft of writing should read and study and take classes and learn the craft. And they should use the conscious, critical mind to do that. That’s what it’s for.
Frankly, as an aside, if you’d like to learn how to interweave an overall plot with a couple of sub-plots and tie it all together at the end, I recommend bingeing Seinfeld until your eyes begin to bleed. You can take notes, but you’ll absorb a lot about (ahem) structure and pacing and dialogue (to quickly name three aspects of craft) without even taking notes.
But after writers learn and absorb, they either trust (or not) what they’ve spent all that time and money learning. And whether or not they trust or believe it, the newly acquired knowledge still has seeped into their creative subconscious. So really it’s a matter of trusting their characters to use the knowledge directly from the creative subconscious, or of the writer re-accessing the knowledge consciously, thereby sending a message of mistrust to the creative subconscious.
Those of us who write into the dark practice that new knowledge (and the knowledge that preceded it) by putting new words on the page. We write story after story after novel after novel, unimpeded by our own or others’ conscious critical mind.
Others, for whatever reason—and there literally are dozens of reasons given—hover over one work, revising, editing, inviting critiques, rewriting, etc. All of which, I hasten to add, is perfectly fine. The choice of whether to practice or hover belongs to each writer, as well it should. Every writer is different. Either way, their decision doesn’t affect my own bottom line, so I really don’t care.
For me personally, it makes perfect sense to trust that what I’ve learned about the craft of writing resides in my creative subconscious where it’s available to my characters as they tell their story.
It must reside there. If it didn’t, I would have to think consciously about other things I’ve learned over the years, like how to spell my name or whether to capitalize the first word of a sentence or where to insert the apostrophe in a contraction. Yet I do those things without thinking about them. (Maybe that’s just me, but I don’t think so.)
Likewise, when I write a story or novel, I apply all the things I’ve learned about the craft of writing without consciously thinking about them. That trust leaves me free to allow the characters to tell the story that they, not I, are living.
So for me, to answer the basic question, yes, because I choose to trust myself and my creative subconscious, writing is easy, fun, and even freeing. The “work” is in reading and listening and watching and thereby learning the craft.
All of this led me to another similar train of thought, which I probably will continue here tomorrow.
Talk with you again soon.
See “‘Perfect to Me’: How Self-Editing Can Take Your Novel to the Next Stage” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/perfect-to-me-how-self-editing-can-take-your-novel-to-the-next-stage/. I don’t buy it, but to each his/her own. You’ll see my comment on the post.
See “NASA wants your ideas to reuse trash and waste on a Mars mission” at https://www.space.com/nasa-resuse-trash-waste-mars-mission.
See “Spaceflight makes people anemic and it doesn’t get better with time” at https://www.space.com/spaceflight-destroys-red-blood-cells.
See “Priming the Pump” at https://killzoneblog.com/2022/01/priming-the-pump.html. A good post, wonderfully written.
Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.