I don’t know if it shows, but most of everything I write is stream of consciousness, when I sit down I have an idea of what I want to write but I’ve never been a big outline kind of writer. I took several years of composition and journalism classes over the years and I don’t know why but teachers would demand an outline before I proceeded. I detest that process to the point that I’ve written papers and then the outline from it and turned it in to the teacher.
When I write most things I feel my way through them, to use a buzzword, its my process. Take for example my main “life’s literary work,” it’s fantasy and growing but I only really know, in rough terms where I want the story to go. How it gets there is something I find out when I sit down to write it. By now I know the characters well, and I can make the mental adjustment to write for each one of them to stay in character and in my “writer’s voice.”
Maybe that’s what drives me nuts about the nuts and bolts of the traditional writer’s process. I like to write with feeling, I know when I’m in the groove when I feel something like a voice in my head as I write it, and when I pause and read back through it there is a natural flow to it that tells me I’m cooking with napalm.
Now don’t get too worried that I listen to the “voices,” its not the Twilight Zone voices telling me to do strange things. Depending upon who you listen to I get into enough trouble without listening to any voices. Its like when I was younger, it seemed perfectly natural to dispose of a bunch of dud fire crackers by emptying all the powder into a snuff can, and filling the left over space with match heads. What I didn’t count on was the fuse burning that fast. But I stopped smoking after a few minutes, and my eyebrows grew back just fine.
There is an old Irish Gaelic phrase, I’ve sort of adopted it as a motto, Is ón cheann a thagann an cheird, the craft comes from the head. I value knowledge and learning greatly, I have run four different web browsers, each for different purposes and when I click Opera Google is the home page. I will Google anything in a heart beat. Couple that with my appreciation for the History channels and all of the various Discovery channels it comes in REALLY handy. I gather more notes on more odd subjects because it never ceases to amaze me where I can find a plot element.
One of my next projects is going to have to be more book storage in my Troll Cave, my little office under the stairs, because I have run out of room for reference books. The Encyclopedia of superstitions, the Dictionary of Chivalry my 3 volume dictionary set, all the way in the living room, well that’s about four steps, but I’m still feeling separation anxiety.
So what if I forget what a Gong Farmer is? Its way over there! By the way, a gong farmer is the guy that empties out the cesspits and privies. Yes, that’s right, a gong farmer is the guy that we’d now call a poo wrangler or a turd herder. They dig out and haul off what we don’t want to see or think about.
What a crappy job. Literally.
Writing, like no other discipline is where Is ón cheann a thagann an cheird applies the most. Mathematics is formulas and rules. Science is laws, theories and principles. History is dates. Writing is creativity.
Journalism might be 5w+h, who, what, where, when, why and how. But a well-written news story isn’t a bare recitation of these elements with a circled 30 underneath. The journalist takes the essential elements and with the craft of their art they link them together to present a story that is compelling and has an immediacy that grabs and holds the reader.
I’ve written technical procedures, regulations, newsletters, articles, research papers, a little marginal poetry, very short stories, short stories, and am still polishing what I hope is a few books. The styles are different, their purposes are different, but the flavor and flow of writing is something that we’ll carry with us no matter what we write.
What I really hated writing was performance reports. It is harder to get a bad one through the system than a good one, and you always have to say things in the most PC way possible. I’ve wanted to use expressions like: hit rock bottom and quit digging, somewhere a village is missing an idiot and they can have this one, proof of why cousins can’t breed. On the other hand there are guys that I wanted to say things like: Michelangelo with a tool box, couldn’t get better results carrying a chainsaw, or a sunuvabitch with passion. But no, we have to use the tried and true cookie-cutter bullet statements.
But, most of the world doesn’t have to write bullet statements, we get to use actual language. Language takes craft to make it stand and strut the stage. It takes creativity and passion. It needs the writer to combine their emotions and experiences with all that they have studied, observed and learned and make words rise off the page.
The craft comes from the head, but the head is what you make of it. If you lower your bucket into an shallow well, you will draw nothing up. Dig the well deep, and it will always reward you. The craft comes from the head, and inside your head is where you live. Look, listen and learn every day. See how people act and interact. Read widely and from many authors. Know yourself. Know who you are and you will know more than most people.
© 2009 – 2020, Tim Boothby. All rights reserved.