Thursday, August 14, 2014

On writing and Hemingway and being a real writer

Yesterday I had to drive to Springfield to interview a couple of boys for a story.  I say 'boys' but they are 20 and 26, which, come to think of it, is really an entirely different generation technologically and musically and grown-up-nessly.  (I like to make up words.  It's my prerogative as a survivor of a liberal arts program.)

But anyway, since I was going to be on the rode for almost an hour, I thought maybe it would be a good time to think about blog posts and possibly putting a bit more thought into what I write, having a theme, avoiding the stream-of-consciousness that normally comprises this space.  I've been wanting to share a story from my youth, because I haven't done that in awhile.  And I'm not talking about a journal entry.  I mean a fresh take on an old story.  I like to tell stories and I think I'm good at it.  But the problem is that I can't find one that I want to tell.

I downloaded a voice-recorder app so I could record whatever came to my mind on writing. And now those thoughts sit on my phone.  I haven't listened to them yet.  I haven't taken notes or made an outline or even began a stream-of-consciousness post on something I suggested for myself that later could be refined and edited and tweaked.  I'm just not feeling it.  I don't know why.  Maybe I haven't found the right story.  Maybe I am out of practice.  Maybe I just don't want to face the stories that would be the hardest to tell but the best to write.

Hemingway said, I believe, to write drunk and edit sober.  I fully understand what he was trying to say.  It's hard to write.  It's hard to put yourself out there to be judged, to share a part of yourself to people who may not appreciate it.  Also - it's extremely difficult to write honestly, to be honest about yourself, your life, your experiences.  Because those experiences are usually shared by other people, who may have a different view of what happened and who may not appreciate your view.  People could be hurt or upset or take offense.  And so the stories stay where they are.  In memory.

And sometimes with writing I become tied up with the words.  It sounds silly, I know.  But I do.  I focus on a word or a sentence that doesn't sound exactly how I want it to, and instead of moving on and coming back to that part, I obsess until none of it makes any sense at all and I can't find my way out.  When you're drunk, inhibitions are loosened, including writing inhibitions.  The words flow, and if they don't, eh, I'll just write something until a good part comes along.  I honestly haven't had a lot of experience with drunk writing, but I understand the sentiment.*

The important thing with writing, I believe, is to put the words on paper.  To have them out to look at and dissect.  Once that's done, then the rest just happens.  Write drunk. Edit sober.

I was speaking with a colleague this week about writing, about how we don't necessarily feel like real writers.  I am not a fiction writer.  I've started many, many stories that fizzled out before I decided to call it quits.  That's not to say that I don't hope to someday be better at it.  I do.  I want to be a real writer.  I just don't know whether I am one.  Or whether I have the time and dedication to be a real one.

And I do believe that to be something other than a blogger or newspaper writer would take more dedication from me.  It would take more work than I have been able to put in.  And I like the personal narrative, which is what I mainly write.  I'm happy that there is a genre now to fit people who like to talk about themselves, and I'm happy that some people are actually making a living talking about themselves.  (I am not.  Though it would be nice.)

My friend sent me a link to a MFA in Creative Writing program that looked amazing.  And part of me really wants to do it.  It's terrifying and scary and completely out of my comfort zone but would also be amazing and something I've secretly always wanted to do.  But I've never before let myself consider that it was an option.  And honestly, right now it isn't an option.  School costs money and I have small children and a job and now is just not the time.

But one day, when I let myself consider that I could be a real writer, maybe then I'll go.

*Although I did write an awesome cover letter drunk one time.  Because the words flowed freely.  I didn't get that job.

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