On Writing …
We artists are a funny group of people. The need to create is strong in us. The need to express whether
it’s in art, writing, or music, it comes from within and what motivates this need is unique to each artist.
Each creation has a part of our heart
and soul in it. Then we send it out into the world to make friends. We’re like proud mamas showing photos of their children
to anyone who will look. Waiting to hear the oohs and ahhs of the viewer to be reassured that our child is the most outstanding,
special, beautiful, child the observer has ever seen.
Then we hole up, forget the world for a time, and return to creating again.
And, depending on the feedback we received, we either enter the creative process with zeal, or with trepidation. If the reactions
were positive, we’re eager to begin again. If not, we try to figure out why, and improve on what was wrong.
I started out as an artist. Drawing
and painting. All the while an avid reader. As life passed, I learned to create in other areas such as homemade crafts, flower
arranging, and finally turned to photography. The digital age had arrived, and I was learning new skills.
The funny thing about creating, sometimes,
one area isn’t enough. I discovered that I also wanted to write. Writing I discovered, is another kettle of fish entirely.
Photography was an easy transition from drawing and painting. Jumping from one medium to an entirely different one was rough.
With a photo, I could snap the shot,
edit it, and show you almost immediately what I wanted you to see. With writing, this became a new challenge. How was I going
to show you what was in my mind with just words?
Deciding what to write, how to write it was the first step. Should I write the next great
American novel? No, too big an undertaking to start. I didn’t think I could write a short story either. I discovered
micro poetry on Twitter and fell in love with it. The compact way it could say so much with, so few words intrigued me.
My micro poems were HORRIBLE! In fact,
if they had a contest for such a thing, I’d have won hands down. I had shared them with a few friends and we laughed
at how awful they were. I must admit though, deep down inside, I was heartbroken. These words and images were in my head and
wanted to come out.
Then a friend developed a blog where one could submit free verse poetry. I said I would help get it off the ground
if she didn’t mind my horrible writing. This time, without the constraint of micro poetry, but being allowed the freedom
to be as long as I liked, I wrote. Those first poems stand as some pretty bad writing. I leave them though, because that began
the process of learning to write well and in my own style.
The first thing I learned, was that writing what I know about is easiest, rings
true and tends to be the best. So that is where I looked to for my poems. Being an observer of people, I also could tap into
those observations and write about those. In my opinion, my best poems were and are, those that I’ve written about my
childhood memories and observations of people I’ve met or know.
It’s not just enough to sit down and write. Even in poetry, whether it’s
a micro poem or free verse, or more formally structured poem like a quatrain or sonnet. It must have structure, flow, rhythm.
You must decide which words have power, which are weak. What image do you want the reader to have? How much description is
too much? I had to grapple with these things.
I had to learn to edit my work. I had to sit and re-read what I had written.
Not once, twice, but over and over until I was sure it’s right. For me, use of tense was (and still is) always a problem.
And the typos that auto correct doesn’t catch because you’ve spelled a word not just the right one. I’m
not good at tedious tasks like this, but it was a necessary one.
I learned there was a plus side, in editing if the sentence structure
isn’t right, or doesn’t have a ‘flow’ to it, you can change it. But I had to be careful in changing
it, I might partially leave the other sentence or repeat a phrase.
Another thing, and I think is the most important thing, I learned
and am still learning, is to sift through my writing. Whether it is poetry or prose, often less is more. Just like in anything
you undertake, remember the fundamentals. I had a wonderful billiard instructor, Len, who would say to me, “Remember
KISS, Keep It Simple Silly. When you’re struggling with your game, go back to your fundamentals. Your problem is there.”
He was right, if my game was off, it was because I was poking not stroking, or my bridge hand wasn’t right, my stance
was off, etc.
This analogy came to mind when another mentor, regarding writing, told me the other day, that proficient writing is
because basic is better than a tired old cliché or being trite. My billiards mentor would have said “You don’t
need a lot of side English if you’re fundamentals are sound.” Which is the same thing. The best billiards players
make it look easy, because their fundamentals are sound. Yes, they use side English when necessary, but, only if necessary.
I needed to take out unnecessary words,
filler words. To refine the sentences down to their finest grain. Less is more … until it isn’t, I was told. For
a person who loves to talk, this was and still is hard.
Personal feelings are more difficult. I find showing my private, vulnerable
side too raw yet. As to fiction, I’ve dipped my toe into it and am now actively working in that realm. It will be a
while before I’ll be sharing it, but I am excited about this new avenue.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I think, that writers,
are the most unsung artists in our society. Not the best sellers, but the ones that are putting themselves out there who are
far better than I am and receive little recognition. The next time you read one here at DTLAL or on Twitter, or somewhere
else, please let them know how much you enjoyed their work.
Your comment will be so appreciated, and you’ll never know just how much
it goes to the heart of the writer. Who knows, you may inspire the next best seller or Great American Novel!