Today, I thought I’d put down a few words on the so-called technique of creative writing. Really, this is rather difficult seeing as I have nothing to say on the matter. What I mean by this is that I refuse to pronounce rules and regulations. Furthermore, I won’t deal in absolutes. All I wish to do is impart some tips I’ve acquired through my long history of non-lucrative writing… much of which falls into the so-called category of “creative.”
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When looking for inspiration, I’ve often found it useful to find something to respond to, often a central and venerated text. For instance, one of my own triumphs: “No More Gods” came from one too many classroom exposures to Paradise Lost. Often, it’s difficult to find the motivation to put pen to paper, often only to proclaim the obvious. But when one sees fallacies regarded as sacred text, the intelligent mind burns with fervor to sharply respond.
In this sense, I’ve been most fortunate. My “creative” writing has all been done in the first decade of the twenty-first century, a time when the highways of thought are clogged with rubbish and deceit. One need only look at the yellow national newspaper to see the same despicable scenarios portrayed in the same propagandic manner... as in the worst periods of history.
Sensing this sterilizing trend, many American artists, intellectuals, etc. have lashed out with bohemian rage. In response to prejudice against gays, Kurt Cobain kissed Kris Novocelic on stage; In response to lackey-ification of the press, Gary Trudeau has created brutal comic satire; In response to the insipid commercialism of the age, there was “Schindler’s List.”
And so the creative writer usually Responds to particular messages that he is receiving, and seeing others receive. He is also a mere individual, tied to his time, place, and personal foibles. This should not discourage him. Look at me: I often came to the keyboard dirt-poor and without any connections. But through fiery inspiration and determination, I created work of value and, should the cosmic die roll my way, it will last.
Rather than being ashamed of one’s limitations as an individual, I encourage my fellow writers to embrace them, to greet the day with a most observant eye. When writing, try to give the reader a sense of just Who is writing. Where are they? Is it sunny or snowing outside? Is their leg sore? Did they receive a bonus this month?
All these seemingly petty facts that make up a person and his scenario are vital to the enterprise of writing: For the reader will not be in the same conditions or suffer from the same limitations.
Moving on, I’d like to put in a word for revision. Often, the best writing is done in a creative fury. The blinds have been lifted from the writer’s eyes and with his pen, he is seeing. All this necessary excitement tends nonetheless to lessen one’s literary horse-sense: the savvy use of commas, precise words, paragraph breaks, etc. Usually, a piece of writing forged in the fire of inspiration... will need to be revised a couple times in a less inspired state.
In conclusion, I will attempt to impart a few practically inexpressible notions. Try to always remember that a single consciousness is very limited… and the writer is engaged in a constant struggle between the singleness of existence and the aspiration to affect civilization at large. Also, there is always more to the picture than meets the eye: A knowledge of history is perhaps the most important ingredient in wisdom.
Anyway, I have today said nothing whole or coherent. But I am sincere and hope these odd-shaped thoughts might fill a niche in your cosmic puzzle.
"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complicated, and more violent. It takes a lot of courage... and a touch of brilliance to move things in the other direction."
- Albert Einstein