Saturday, March 03, 2012

Writing: It's Little More Than A Gerund

[The following is an excerpt from an assigned paper I wrote in 2006. The first paragraph is borderline irrelevant, I just really like it. The rest basically dominates my current self with how much more my past self knew about writing I'm not entirely sure why I'm posting this here. I know in part it's because this will give me a similar level of satisfaction as posting something original. I hope it also has something to do with my whole "changing the world" kick that you don't know anything about yet.]

I spent a disconcerting amount of my childhood trying to fit a square block through a triangular hole. As much as I’d like to say I’m speaking metaphorically, the truth is that I literally spent hours trying to fit a square block through a triangular hole. Aside from the obvious difference of shape, the square was red and the hole had a green border, but these clues were lost on my one-year-old intellect. Needless to say, I was a terrible writer. In fact, there are precious few, if any, talented writers among baby circles. Therein lies the hope of writers everywhere: writing is an acquired skill.

I know I’m not uncovering any great etymological truth when I say that writers are people who write, but that’s the truth. Memorable writers are just like any other type of memorable people. They might be cool, funny, endearing, lovely, cruel, domineering, or just plain loud, but they cannot be absent. If you want to write things that will be read, you have to read to write and write to be read. You have to do these things actively or else whatever it is you’re spending your time doing won’t be relevant to other readers or writers.

But that’s just the problem, many people say, I read all the time, but I don’t have anything to say [Ed. Not sure anyone says that ever, but the sentiment holds]. Such a comment could be taken as humble, but I take it as an insult to the human experience. Anyone who can talk has something to say. Even babies have things to say, and if they know sign language they’ll start saying it before they can talk, much less type. The image of a writer without anything to write is sadder than an artist without anything to draw. If an artist has nothing to draw, that can only mean one thing: that artist is dead.

But here I have to make a very important caution. Especially when you’re starting out, write about anything you can think of; just don’t get carried away writing about yourself. Everything you’ll ever write will in some way be about yourself anyway because you’re the one writing, so don’t make the situation any worse than it already is. Write about the world around you. Write about your friends and enemies and loves and fears. Write about the things you dream about and the things you wake up thinking about. Write about what makes you mad and what makes you cry. Write about what makes you laugh or what makes other people laugh. If you’re alone in a colorless room without windows or doors and your memory has been erased, yell for help—don’t write about yourself.

In writing about other things you will begin to uncover where your passions lie. You will discover which subjects interest you and which subjects do not. You will discover how to approach subjects that you do not care about. As you become familiar with the writing process you will learn to recognize that process in the writing of others. Little by little, page by page, you will learn how to see.