Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Impractical Tips for Writers
It's Bonnie's fault.
At Novel Matters, we try to post in themes each week, and the Monday writer gets to pick the theme. So for instance, since Bonnie wrote on Monday a brilliant, you-won't-read-it-anyplace-else post about starting a novel, it would make sense if I wrote an equally brilliant post about ending a novel.
Only I can't.
The reason I can't is that recently, on Bonnie's advice, I fetched John Truby's "The Anatomy of Story" out of the cob-webbed corner where I had flung it in anger, dusted it off, and began to read again. So just this moment I think I know nothing, nothing about writing a beginning or an end or any part of a story. Bonnie says it will get better. And I trust her.
But there's more. For over a week, in her emails, Bonnie has woven this fantasy that we bloggers at Novel Matters will all live in the same town and share an upper story loft. We'll teach writing workshops in the mornings (you'll all be there) and host evening poetry slams in our café where we will serve organic, fair trade coffee, groats and chocolate. She says I can wear silk kimonos day and night, and maybe get a tatoo, and we'll all spend our days writing about truth, beauty, freedom; but above all things, love.
She has no idea what she's feeding in my psyche.
She doesn't know that I think the movie, "Moulin Rouge" is unutterably deep and profound, or that the song I have sung in the shower (or these days in my upper story claw foot tub) for my entire life has been "Those Were the Days" à la Mary Hopkin. Right now I could sing it all the way through for you, every word. But you don't want me to. That last note is a doozy.
I do trust Bonnie though, and the reason is that she completely understands my desire to write no stories that have been written before. Judging by your comments on Monday, I suspect you understand too. The reason you love her you-won't-read-it-anyplace-else advice is that like me, you have guessed that the fastest way to write stories that have been written a hundred or a thousand times before is to write in the way all those hundreds and thousands of authors have written.
You've set yourself a bodaciously difficult task, my friend. You will have to be reckless and brave.* If you walk this path you will be misunderstood and cranky, you will fail more times than you don't, you will learn more about your dark side than you want to know, and people will think - rightly - that you are peculiar, even without the kimonos and tattoo. And with all of that, you'll get no guarantee of success. I and Bonnie, Patti, Sharon, Latayne and Debbie will walk beside you, along with a great cloud of authors and poets and artists. But we will all be with you in spirit, so you won't always see us, and you will get lonely.
I hope you will stay the course, nonetheless, because there's a prize to be won.
He or she who endures to the end will learn the true and deep meaning of worship, and that worship will ripple in ways beyond your control or imagining.
The Novel Matters ladies recently bought me Crossway's newest treasure, "The Four Holy Gospels," illuminated by Makoto Fujimura. It is a gift so lavish it still makes me weep, but as I have read it morning and evening, allowing words and images to weave together in my thoughts, my thinking about the ultimate best purpose for art has transformed. I have seen that, as an artist (or writer) worships through her work, communing both with God and her reader, then deep calls to deep, and the waves swell and crest. Things happen. Things change.
On Fujimura's blog I came across a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Artist Of the Beautiful." Please read it today. You will feel that your deepest secrets have been exposed by a man who was long dead when you were born. You will feel understood as never before. You will learn what it is you write for.
Then put on your silk kimono and come back here to talk truth, beauty, freedom; but above all things, love. Or if you want something more specific, tell us about a time when the mix of art and worship have changed your life.
We love to read what you have to say.
*And you will have to watch next month for a Novel Matters Holiday you can make your own.