My Obsession: Here I am, the kitchen table scribbler, writing, writing, writing, writing.
I write. I write that I am writing. Mentally is see myself writing that am writing and I can also see myself seeing that I am writing. I remember writing and also seeing myself writing. And I see myself remembering that I see myself writing and I remember seeing myself remembering that I was writing and I write seeing myself write that I remember having seen myself write that I saw myself writing that I was writing. I can also imagine myself writing that I had already written that I would imagine myself writing that I had written that I was imagining myself writing that I had written that I was imagining myself writing that I see myself writing that I am writing.
Salvadro Elizondo/ The Graphographer
Nobel laureate Mario Varcas LLosa opened his novel Aunt Julia and the Script Writer with this quote. It's a fun house mirror kind of thing that gets the point across: an obsession with writing that is the genesis of all great literature and that can also drive the writer a bit mad, destroy relationships, and maybe destroy the writer, too.
To accomplish great things in a difficult profession, both extraordinary talent and extraordinary obsession are necessary things. Whether it is writing or ballet dancing, playing the piano or brain surgery or theoretical physics, doing great things takes a single-minded, long-term focus.
As I continue my struggle to improve my prose fiction, I realize now that my other writing--blogging, working as a broadcast journalist, and, for the past two years, as an essayist--has also played a powerful role in that learning process. Example: as a news reporter/anchor for several radio stations, I was required to not only go out and gather the news, but to get back to the station in time to write those stories up into a coherent news cast--and then read my own reporting on the air. This was a deadline dictated by the seconds of a clock and the format of the station. I had to be in front of that microphone with five minute of well-written news at exactly the right time.
This resulted in not only dramatically improved typing skills but in a dramatically improved ability to come up with the right words quickly, to foresee the elements in the story that needed to unfold, to organize those elements into a beginning, middle, and end. It taught me to get the point across in a colorful, interesting style while being a minimalist with words. Typically, I would have, say, 30 or 40 seconds to tell a complete news item.
As for blogging, I started this blog back in 2005 when I was living on a sailboat on the island of Guam. I never thought of it as a way to promote myself and my writing. It was, really, just a personal journal. This non-deadline prose is the sort of writing that can be fun as well as instructive. Blogs do go out there into the world--around the world, in fact, with a potential readership in the billions--and you want it to be interesting, thought provoking, entertaining--all the things good writing should be--while being relaxed and easy going. I have, in fact, via an online publishing service, put the first six years of this blog into book form (glossy hard-back--looks great) just for my own and my family's interest.
When I was invited to write a monthly piece for The Prague Revue, an online literary journal, I found myself up against a different sort of deadline. While it no longer came down to those final desperate seconds, the writing had to be much different. I have a month to produce a thoughtful, entertaining, 2,000-word piece that will draw in and hold onto the modern, Internet reader, a reader with a notoriously short attention span. To do this, I usually spend an hour a day for three weeks or so, thinking, researching, writing, and then re-writing (and re-writing, and re-writing, and re-writing....) until I think I have it about right.
Again, the goal of this discipline and effort is an improved ability to find just the right word, to weave those words into compelling, alive-on-the-page prose. The more we write, the more our writing improves. The better our writing, the better we feel about our writing and the better our writing becomes, and on and on in the lovely rising spiral of competence.
Of course, to learn to write prose fiction well, there is no substitute for actually writing prose fiction. And writing and writing and writing and writing and writing.......