Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Inspiration and Perspiration

“Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”
—Enid Bagnold

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
—Ernest Hemingway

What do these two quotes have in common? Their authors have first names that begin with "E", right? Well, okay, but I was thinking more along the lines of this: They touch upon the core tension of the writer's life. On the one hand, we have inspiration/desire, that child within us with bright eyes and an inquiring imagination that demands we create something interesting out of this chaos we call life. On the other, we have perspiration/skill, that adult within us with a steady gaze and unyielding practicality that demands we produce something good.

The art is in balancing these two drives. If our writing loses spontaneity, it's not going to hold a reader's interest. If our writing is not sufficiently coherent, it's not going to hold a reader's attention. This is a dilemma  we must overcome if we are to earn our successes.

My process these days is to get the first draft out quickly without rushing (how's that for conflicting advice?), then edit the boring parts down to nothing, and polish the interesting parts until they shine (and no more). Add a pinch of salt, and bake until golden.

What's your recipe?

16 comments:

  1. I agree with your recipe - that's how I do things.

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  2. Write fast, revise slow -- yes indeed. Jack London once said, “You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

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  3. Great piece. And yes, write in haste and repent, I mean revise, at leisure. That's a great quote from Jack London, too, Milo.

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  4. I've actually found I can't hammer out a rough draft. Spewing words on a page just doesn't work for me. I've tried.

    I write slow, meticulously, following my outline so my first draft is generally the best it can be. Revision takes me a shorter amount of time then, and usually involves more overarching problems than sentence level errors.

    Now, once I get critiques back from my alpha reader, well, all bets are off. Revising with her suggestions normally takes me a bit longer and can involve substantial rewriting. But it's always worth it!

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  5. I use all kinds of recipes for my story breads. Sometimes I go slow, sometimes faster. Sometimes I like to write out the plot-recipe first, other times I go by feel without measuring.

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  6. Does anyone want to be my word count buddy? Or have a daily word count war?
    That way I write more! Contact me or comment.

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    1. Sent you a Google mail, Daniel! Be delighted to!

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  7. I feel a kinship with James Michener who said, I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter. Someday, I'd like to be able to say that.

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  8. I quickly write a draft, usually less than 700 words. Then I let it set for a week or two (or longer) before I begin the work of molding it into a story that other people might want to read. I LOVE the editing process, which for me consists of finding the details and the descriptions to bring my draft to life. :) Awesome discussion topic. I adore reading about the process other writers go through form idea to finished story.

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    Replies
    1. I do the same thing with short stories!

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    2. Great minds... ;)

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  9. Submitted my first flash fiction to a contest and a literary journal tonight!

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    Replies
    1. Good luck with it. You're off to a great start this year.

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    2. Awesome work, Daniel! Keep up the strong momentum you're building. :)

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    3. Thanks :)... I hope to write at least 4K on my book this weekend!

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