Writing is a personal matter, and one’s preferences can’t easily be put into words. There are people who take a romantic position towards their work, and there are those who take a practical stance. What they aim to do may be the same, but they use different conceptions to get there.
All the same, I believe that either approach aims for the same result. We must use our subconscious to get our creativeness to unfold. Naturally, every writer wants to convey a message, whether it be that love conquers all, or if they want to show reality — or what they perceive as reality.
Ways and means have changed over time. So have techniques. That is all for the best. We live in the present, how could we avoid that? Why would we want to? On the other hand, we learn from the past and, some of us make that our aim in writing. There’s no doubt that we stand on the shoulder of all the authors we learned to know and love since our infancy. And there lies a danger: we must never try to write like other authors. We can love them and know how they work, we can analyse them until our heads spin, but we must find our own way.
It all comes down to a question of voice. It is interesting that we use that word: is there any bodily function that sets us apart, more than the sound of our voices? A writer’s voice may seem a far-flung contrivance. What does it mean? It is hard to pinpoint, but I believe it boils down to a certain way with words. Just like it is possible to recognize somebody, just by hearing them speak: this way it is possible to recognize a truly unique art of telling a story. Nobody could confuse Hemmingway with Dickens, so to speak.
It takes practice to develop a personal voice. Ask any opera singer how long it took to find their voice. We’re born with ‘a voice’ but to find and refine a personal sound takes years. There’s nothing more disappointing than a ‘made-up’ voice, a singer trying to sound just like this or that celebrated singer. These issues are the same whether you sing, paint, or try to find a unique voice in writing.
Isn’t it true that long-established authors recommend that the novice read out every sentence aloud? That has a clear purpose: if you read your feeble or — through the grace of inspiration — remarkable sentences you’ll instantly recognize the difference. So, to become a writer, you must develop your ear. And you must listen carefully. There are many issues to consider. Rhythm, word-choice, long or short sentences, and the right distribution of them: the list is endless, and there’s only one way to find out. Write, erase, write, and write again. Until everything connects. It may take longer, but the reward of diligent industriousness is considerable. One thing is clear: we’re never perfect. But we can aim for excellence. The only things that matter are not to give up.
On a personal note, I want to add two things. It took me years to get where I am now. I’m not talking about success in the usual sense: I’m just talking about the knowledge that I’ve found out how I want to express my thought. I know how I start writing, and I expect to deal with upcoming problems. There’re always problems. I know how to start. Then I let my ‘characters’ take over. It mostly works that way. I don’t care whether one calls it the characters or the subconscious: it’s basically the same. What I mean is: it functions. Who cares what purists think about the matter. It’s just like some author’s taking offence when other authors chat about their ‘baby’ or ‘brain-child’. Since when is metaphor a swear word? We only work with symbols: words aren’t real: they’re symbols.
© HMH, 2018