Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Essay - further musings on writing

So much to write about and so little time. I suspect that many writers feel this.

Until very recently I have rejected the temptation to call myself a writer. I actually felt that it was pretentious. To me, a writer was a person who wrote for a living. Alex Buzo, Judith Wright or Patrick White were writers. By contrast, I wrote, but it was always for a purpose. Writing was a means to an end, not an end in itself.

I do not know how much I have written over the years. I could not even begin to calculate it. Three theses, multiple university essays, a number of published articles or chapters in books, tens of thousands of minutes, memos and official papers, conference presentations, over a thousand client reports, over two thousand blog posts. Words piled on words piled on words.

As recently as last year when I said that I wanted to be a writer I did not claim to be a writer. I think that the distinction is that, for writers, the writing is central, not just a means to an end.

I think that Kanani Fong is a writer, Bronwyn Parry is a writer, my eldest is not. Helen writes with great clarity, but to her writing is simply a tool. By contrast, youngest Clare is a writer; she writes because she must.

Growing up, there was a certain romance attached to writers and writing. Like many, I thought about writing novels. There were two problems.

To begin with, I had no idea how to do it. Somehow writing novels was an arcane process. I had this idea that the characters were meant to emerge, to create a life of their own, so that they took control of the writing. My role was to record. But how did this happen? I had no idea. Then, too, I kept getting distracted. Wine and women (I am not musical, so there was not so much song), as well as work and the day to day distractions of life kept diverting me. 

Writing, like acting, is a craft; as with all crafts, practitioners are better at some things than others. I have taught myself to perform in public, but cannot act. Acting requires control over the process, as well as the ability to put self aside. I lack the second. I become self-conscious.

  I think that I can write clearly. However, I struggle to capture the rhythm of language. Like most of us, I have experimented with poetry. In later years at school and at university I wrote quite a lot of poetry. Looking back, it was just bad.

I have thought about writing plays, but the same issue has always put me off. Language as well as plot is central to a good play. Mind you, I actually feel a little more confident about plays now than I did because of my daughters.

Both did drama at school, requiring me to attend session after session. Helen focused on acting and production, Clare on acting and writing. Both loved it. Helen in particular has a very analytical approach to production, so I actually learned quite a bit looking at what she had tried to achieve and what I thought of the results.

I still don't think that I could write a good play, but at some stage I do intend to try. It seems a bit sad to put something aside through fear of failure. After all, I am writing for my own pleasure.

Am I ready yet to claim that I am a writer as opposed to a person who uses writing as a tool for other purposes? It now seems a bit silly not too.                  


Kanani said...

Thank you! What a nice surprise. It came at a time when I needed it most.

I'll think about what you wrote, and will respond to it on my blog.

But first I have to walk the dog!

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Kanani. Enjoy your walk. And your writing and editing.

Kanani said...

Okay, I've posted my thoughts. By the way, I'm using this new writing software called Scrivener. Have you seen it? It's a dream! I really do think that this could change the look of books. For one like yours, you could have a kindle version with text and multimedia!

I am editing /rewriting now. I feel lucky if I can bang through 8,000 words a day. I hate this part. I am constantly looking for distractions.