Wick Communications

How do you write?

In Writing techniques on March 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

I think we’ve all heard stories about writers who bang out five pages each morning or writers who can only write in a favorite chair or writers who need to use their fountain pen and yellow legal pad in order to creak out their next novel.

Aren’t they precious?

I got to thinking about this the other day when I happened on a series called, “How I Write,” from Stanford University’s Hume Writing Center. The center has been inviting a wide range or authors in to discuss their writing. I was surprised to find the discussion less interesting, more tedious than I thought it might be. Sorry, Professor Obenzinger.

That isn’t really fair, as I only watched one of the videos on Stanford’s iTunes channel and read the background stuff on the Hume center’s site. In fact, I am sure that many of you would find the discussions much more interesting than I did. Decide for yourself.

But here is why such discussions lose me. To me, writing is roughly equal parts art and craft. The discussions seem to focus on the craft, in part because few of us know how the art works. As a practitioner myself, a discussion of the craft side doesn’t do much for me. It’s like this: If I were a potter, I likely wouldn’t need to read how to operate the kiln. Now the inspiration for the design, well, that’s another matter…

Authors who don’t work in the news business tend to speak of their mystic needs – that pillow they must sit on, or grandma’s mug that has to be full of a special kind of green tea in it in order to summon the muse.

Few of us who actually work for a living can afford such extravagancies. As I’ve said before, I am a big believer in forcing ourselves to work in inhospitable situations. I once wrote a story while sitting cross-legged on the floor of a police substation. Another time I wrote from a charred press box even as ashes rained from the ceiling only minutes after a fire was extinguished. I’ve written them on note pads, computer screens, typewriters and in my head so that I could dictate them to an editor back at the office. And you probably have such stories too.

I wouldn’t want to be beholden to a muse who needs a comfy chair in order to get down to business.

What do you think?

Clay

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