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English Assignment: Writing

May 20, 2007

What is writing? It is self expression, it is a record, it is an attempt to put the impressions of the mind into a permanent form, not unlike painting pictures or capturing photographs, recording video and the voices of our times. It is disseminating information throughout humanity. Everyone who writes does it for a reader, whether consciously or otherwise. Writing is creation, it is proof the of the writer’s existence. We know there was once a Socrates from the words of Plato, that cavemen were not just evolved monkeys from their cave paintings. Writing, or recording, is what sets us apart from the world. Below I shall elaborate on the way I write, my inspirations as a writer, and my experiences of writer’s block.

It is difficult to explain what happens in my mind when I write. In fact I think it impossible to tell anyone how I choose the words I use. All I know is that my mind dictates, and my fingers obey. The words come from nowhere, or more precisely, a dark pit somewhere in the bottom right section of my head. It is so dark I cannot see, and it doesn’t help that my eyes are facing the wrong way round. I ‘hear’ a sentence or a word that sounds good to me, and that is what I put down on paper or type on the keyboard. It works, and that is enough.

Of course I could do better. Regular practice helps, and reading the works of better writers works particularly well. Personally I find the style of my writing adjusts itself to resemble that of the writer influencing me most at a time, be it Terry Pratchett, Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, Oscar Wilde or anyone else whose works to me rise above being more than just words. Not writing regularly makes it quite difficult for me to pick out what precisely to say in order to crystallize my thoughts. One gets this vague impression of knowing what to say, but not how to say it.

Which leads me to writer’s block. In this case I don’t know what I want to say; neither do I have any inkling on how to say it. Thus I say nothing. In doing Nanowrimo (National November Writing Month) this is a certified disaster. To complete it successfully a participant writes on average 1666.666 words a day. For the last two times I did it, I wrote hardly a thousand words a day for the first two weeks. Then the gravity of the situation sinks in. With plenty of panicking and despairing I forced myself to write an average of 2000 words and more daily. Writer’s block never really goes away, but forcing myself to write even with nothing to say worked, and I finished it successfully both times.

One thing about writing fiction is that the story goes where the writer wants it to, so the experience of writer’s block is not unlike being confronted with a vast canvas and an unlimited supply of paint. It is enormous, overwhelming freedom. And like freedom, we don’t really know we have it, and we don’t really know what to do with it. It is difficult to overcome emptiness but overcome it the writer does. Thus emerged the greatest works of our times, created by those who had the courage to mess up the canvas.

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