Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's in the Blood

Thought about this topic since it came up in one of our creative confabs. There are so many ways to go, especially since it’s near Halloween. Blood, gore, violence, color red, genetics, all sorts of ideas have been spinning around in my head. I’d touch on one idea, think for a bit, and then move to the next one. But the one focus I kept coming back to is genetics.

I’ve been considering this subject a lot lately. Something about having teenagers causes you to contemplate yourself and your flaws more critically.

I have an extremely creative son who has, in the past few years, decided English is more trouble than it’s worth. Amazingly teachers require attention to details, ie. Punctuation and shit (his words, not mine :) ) and when you don’t comply with their rules you are penalized. Go figure.

So he has these creative ideas but they won’t see the light of day because he doesn’t want to put the time into getting the words on the paper, in making the action and plot revelation coherent, in developing his idea into a cohesive story. In other words, he doesn’t want to spend the time to make it work.

So what does this have to do with blood? I understand his frustration and his problem. For some, writing is a beautiful flow of words that "seem to" (and yes, I use the quote marks specifically because I know that the seemingly effortless takes work!) land upon the page like a butterfly alighting on a flower.

For me, part of writing is like a great big splat of paint on a clean floor. You can’t wipe it up, so you have to brush over and around and through that splat until it represents something pretty and hopefully thought provoking but it’s never going to be a masterpiece.

That’s how I feel about my prose. I’ve tried and frankly it just comes off as if I’m trying too hard. My strengths are in pacing and plot and character. And even those elements have taken lots of time and effort and education. I am constantly looking to improve my craft through workshops, reading other work and analyzing why it works, and reading books on writing. I love writing. I love creating. I love thinking about people and how they would react in the situations that I create for them.

There are so many pieces to the process that I think are fantastic but it is never going to flow effortlessly. And I am always going to have to work my tail off for the words to finally coalesce into a work I am satisfied with. But, I keep on. Writing, revising, editing, writing again, plotting, crafting. Over and over and over again. I can’t give up. It’s in my blood.

So now all I can do is hope that my perseverance and words of wisdom for my son will kick in. Because that’s what I’ve got going on. And frankly, I believe one day, he will too. As long as I show him how it’s done.


ps--just to clarify, I am in NO WAY comparing my work to Jackson Pollack but he was the closest I could come to a splat :) :)


Sophie Littlefield said...

Love the splat!!!

For what it's worth, I feel #2's pain. I hate hate hate hate hate writing rules. The greatest relief in the world is knowing that no single teacher will ever again judge my prose. Readers judge, editors, and that's fine, but I'd probably be right there with him refusing to turn my essay in.

But maybe don't tell him that..... :)

L.G.C. Smith said...

No, don't tell him that. It's hard enough for writing teachers to balance the pursuit of sufficient conventions and standards to achieve communicative success with encouraging creative juice. When we go after writing ourselves, we bring so much to the table that all those teachers taught us, even when we can now articulately reject at least half of it. Or more. Sometimes quite a lot more.

Lisa, how many kids are in the boys' English classes these days?

I have to chuckle at the image of you splatting the words all over the page. I think you splat with quite a lot of structure and purpose. Whatever your process, it works. :)

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