Thursday, May 19, 2016

If It Looks Like Writing, Sounds Like Writing, Then It Must Be a Duck

You needed to spend a great deal of time learning to write like yourself, drowning out all those voices  you heard while reading the individuals whose words got you into thinking you'd like to give it a try yourself. 

Even when you got to the point where you began to think you didn't write the way anyone else did, you were suspicious enough of influences to read some of your stories aloud to see if anything you hadn't noticed was there.

Some years back, you came across on television, a motion picture version of Three Comrades, a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a writer you'd much admired to the point of ferreting out and close reading all his titles. At one point, one of the characters spoke a line of dialogue that caused you to say out loud, "That had to have been written by Scott Fitzgerald." 

Were push to arrive at shove, you'd have to say you read Fitzgerald with even greater closeness than you'd read Remarque, recalling many of the small details about Fitzgerald--in particular, his short stories which seemed worthy of using in your own material. 

Then, when you became convinced you had to discover your own writing voice, you had to make a point of editing out places where you were wanting to sound like Fitzgerald.

The television platform for the movie made a point of running the credits after the story had completed, thus you were able to see the screenwriting credits, which included F. Scott Fitzgerald. 

This recognition of Fitzgerald's voice was something you'd had in one way or another with many of the writers you studied and admired, a recognition that evolved from the pure admiration and wonder of the writer's use of language to an envy of it and, at some primal level, an awareness of the competition you begun to feel with the individual writer.

As your list of writers with whom you were in some competition began to grow, the ironic humor of your laundry list began to impress itself on you. Many of these writers had lived their entire life before you'd even arrived. One or two are almost exact contemporaries of yours. 

More than one or two have come along well after your arrival here. Having the full advantage of reading their works made the matter even more laughable. You need to proceed at your pace, exploring and finding a place to settle on where you can be the tour guide.

You weren't in this to be better than them, you'd be lucky to be as good as any of them. They were the men and women who made storytelling seem so easy that anyone could do it--even you.

Each of the men and women on your laundry list were (and still are) able to take you to places you'd never been, giving you the opportunity to experience sensations and aspirations you'd never had before. Your goal is to take yourself and such readers as might wish to come along to yet another unvisited place, in short, your place.

If this doesn't sound like you, blaming F.Scott Fitzgerald won't help. You're on your own.

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