Sunday, December 02, 2007

History lessons

It is fair to say that there is a lot more to writing than I ever thought. It is a craft that gets harder the more you know. In my breezy youth I used to just embark on a story sure that my raw talent would, like a storm surge, overcome the barriers to getting it finished and it actually being any good. Now, much older and wiser I know a huge amount more about how to construct a story, how to handle character, voices, use setting to reinforce the action, change pace to aid exposition and so on, and so on.

As an aside I used to think I would be one of those writers that would be interesting because he was a success enviously young (like Bruce Sterling). But now I’m in danger of being interesting because I’m getting to it so late. But, as others have said before now, the good thing about writing is that you do get better at it as you get older and it’s not the type of physical work that a body simply cannot do at an advanced age.

If I have any regrets about not getting on with it earlier it is that I’m just realising how much there is to know and time is not on my side to learn all that. Though, if you believe John Gardner, (no, not that one) I’m already sunk because I didn’t study literature at University.

Anyhoo, what I have realised, and I know many other budding writers are the same, is that not all stories are created equal in the boiling ferment of the brain. There are some stories, often that have been nourished for a long time, that a writer will shy away from writing until they have the talent to do them justice. I know I have – several of them. And that’s just odd.

It is only partly explained by them being held so close for so long that a writer, like a parent, does not want them to go out in anything but their best clothes. But only partly. There is some deeper appreciation thrumming through stories that demands a writer take notice. And it only gets worse. The more you know, the more scared you feel because you know that the potential for doing a story down is a heinous act. A betrayal almost. Which is really odd. But there it is. Writing increasingly is all about confronting that gap between what you know and what a story demands. When I got going I never thought I would need as much courage, determination and hope as it is becoming apparent I do. This is work, real graft, and it is no good just hitching your belt and waiting. You have to set out and get on with it because every story is a mirror in which you confront yourself and means that what is at stake is your self respect.

No comments: