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Friday, 7 December 2012

On Writing

     I hate writing about writing; no matter what, it feels (and, I am sure, most likely is) completely self-indulgent. It's like being the surgeon at the party, or college professor, who--regardless of this rich life spent in higher learning--cannot talk about anything other than: the brain, impressive though it is; arrogant college students, who have so much that you didn't but aren't as clever, smart, hard working, etc.; wonders of the undiscovered; the complexity of human identity. All of these are fine topics when administered in proper doses. But, like too much dessert or reality TV, they can become taxing and tiresome on those who, maybe, just want to shoot the breeze or hear how the kids are doing.
     Now, I might hate writing about writing, but that doesn't mean that I don't like stories that have writers in them. A Widow for One Year is possibly one of my favorite novels to date, and one cannot help but appreciate Ian McEwan's masterful craftsmanship when reading Atonement. And the movie Ruby Sparks? genius.
     It's when the idea of writing takes over; when the characters have to take a back seat to the craft; they must bow to the author's Might of Words--that is when the work stops being fun or clever, and is just plain pretentious.
     So in the spirit of ducking pretentiousness, I am going to preface the rest of this entry with a warning: I am going to write about writing. It may be boring, but certainly some parts of it might be interesting.
     The reason for this entry comes back to my old fashion way of writing. As an early Christmas present, my girlfriend bought a restored Olivetti Lettera 32. Some of you might recognize that brand and model as the favorite of Cormac McCarthy--No Country for Old Men, The Road, All the Pretty Horses. Now, mine may not have been Cormac's, but that doesn't make it any less special. After all, mine had a previous owner, too. I even have his name; he typed it on the instruction manual, probably on the first day that he bought it sometime in the early 70's.
     I won't put his name here, because that just isn't right. However, I did look him up. I even mailed him a letter, typed out on his old Lettera. I just wanted to let him know that it was in good hands. Also, I cannot help but wonder as to the history of this little machine.
     So, what does that have to do with writing? I will tell you.
     The Lettera 32 is not my first typewriter. It's not my second typewriter. In truth, I could not tell you just how many I have to date. But it is this typewriter that really gets me thinking about writing: the act of and the art form. It reminds me of how massive a book really is. You may not think much of a children or YA book while you plug through it, but believe me when I tell you: rewriting 40,000 words is nothing to sneeze at.
     As an aspiring novelist, the most terrifying part of writing a book is knowing that you'll have to go back and revise the entire thing. Even on a computer, the thought of revision--of all those hours ruining your vision--is a heart sinking affair. It is why I have so much respect for John Irving, Tolkien, McCarthy, and Dickens. They wrote (and still write in the case of McCarthy) massive works and braved the world of rewriting when cut and paste wasn't a function, but two verbs and a conjunction. It was a time when one's mind had to compose quickly and elegantly, and the idea you were about to lay down must be complete. If it wasn't, or if it was just plain bad, it would mean either a fresh page for your machine or testing your skills with the Wite-Out.
     I think that I will break this one up for now.

     ...To Be Continued