Saturday, April 5, 2008

... actually, I saw it, I'm just too lazy to find the quote tonight

During my internet hiatus, I've had plenty of time to myself. I hadn't realized just how much time I kill by doing nothing much at all. Of course, I also spent that time writing (or trying to write, depending on the day, but a subject for another day) so that takes an appreciable amount off of it.

I've spent most of that time reading and thinking. Thinking about what I've read, thinking on my writing, thinking about myself. It's been kind of a down period, a time to focus internally, take assessment of where I am, and strike out again restocked from a new fortified and rejuvenated center.

What I've found, more than anything, is that my writing is lacking.

Some dude named [ find this guy later and put him in here, and haha on me if I post this with this tag still intact ] said that "a writer's apprenticeship includes one million words which are then discarded. Then he is ready to begin."

I'm not at the big 1,000,000 (impressive written out like that, ne?) but I'm about halfway. This is if we only include works of fiction, because if we attribute all my lengthy bits of roleplaying and blogging and journaling and ranting over the years, I've well surpassed a million and I'm probably pushing or have beaten 2mil. I don't like that idea, though, because to be completely honest I flew into my first novel as blind as if those words hadn't counted, so I'm content to say they did not.

So I'm not at a million, but I'm getting there by hook or by crook. And I've found that while I'm getting a grasp for the demands of a book--be they character bits, or plot lines, or themes or whatever--the bones of the writing is what really needs the work.

I think this has a lot to do with the editing of MS, really. I read through it, and was struck time and again with the fact that it was a great story, but that my writing just wasn't up to par. Often it was soft, unsure, lacking the confidence I needed to have. As much as I hate the bastard's writing, Hemingway never pulled a punch when it came to narration. Things were. They weren't. People said and did and lived and died. Nothing was ever a maybe.

I'm not going to write like Hemingway, or even attempt it, but I need to learn to tighten up my own voice. I know my book. I'm telling the story. I can't back away from it or hem and haw over it. I need to stride forward and put the words on the page and not blink in the face of them.

There is a painting by Japanese hero Miyamoto Musashi of a bird on a branch. I have this picture prefacing one of the books on Zen I have. The most remarkable thing about the picture is the complete purity of it. Done with black ink and a brush, the main focus of the painting (the branch) is drawn in one master stroke. A single like cutting across the page, turning to and fro, but never stopping. It is a line that defines. A line that divides.

But beyond everything else, it is a line put down without fear. It is what it is. It is a killing stroke turned into creation. It is the mind's weapon unleashed for poetry as opposed to distruction.

I still stands, to me, as one of the most defining ideas to me of what art should stand for.

I'm looking for my voice. The thing that is ME as a writer. Many people say I already have voice, but it's not where it should be. The book I'm trying to write requires my voice to grow and change. This is great, because I need to always stretch for something greater in order to evolve as a writer.

I need a bigger voice. A surer voice. A voice that writes the way Musashi painted. A voice that is a killing stroke, a voice that puts the words on the page and makes no excuses for them. A voice that is willing to utilize the language without fear.

I don't know what my voice will be--whether it'll be flashy or simple; casual or formal. When I think of the kind of writing that makes me feel something stir, it's writing with powerful voice. There are specific authors I have in mind, but my books will look nothing like theirs. Indeed, my voice is nothing like theirs and never will be. Nor would I want it to be. But in them, I see something of myself. I see where I want to go with these words.

So I've been reading. And thinking. I pulled back my overextended and weary forces, I sent the troops home to tend to their families for a while, and now they're back on the front. The winter's passed, the harvest was safe and babies will be born in time for the next one.

Now the forces stand at the ready again, feeling stronger. Sun Tzu knew the meaning of morale when it came time to fight a war. And while there have been plenty of warfare metaphors here in this post, I think they're accurate enough. All things are related to all things, so they say. In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg mentioned offhandedly that the further one gets into writing, the more things seem to relate to it. In the end, a writer relates to all things through the vehicle of their task. The medium itself becomes transparent and all encompassing.

Maybe this is just a moment of that. And it's not just writers. Anyone who is very into their career or passion eventually sees things through the skien of that passion. It can't be helped. It's as natural as runny noses and muddy shoes.

The troops might be ready to strike out on a new campaign, but let us not forget, it is still spring.

1 comment:

Kate Duva said...

When I'm feeling like that, I go eavesdrop on some voices. Go to the Greyhound station, the laundromat, the hospital waiting room, write everything you hear. Do some channeling as well. Don't forget seances, if you are so inclined. Voila! A mightier voice.