Writing is simple, says I to a friend. Concentrate and don’t write rubbish. The second part of that injunction is largely ignored, as you are aware. Rubbish is not the subject at issue, however. Concentration is.
Here I digress. A man introduced to me as a writer, though whether published or not I don’t know, said this. You write all night saying this is great then look at it in the morning and say its rubbish. An honest man.
Some collect butterflies, others write. Many wish to be writers, why, I don’t know. Perhaps in pursuit of the fickle jade, fame. And fortune. Possibly hoping to appear in the Fortune Five Hundred, which is writing, though a list. Someone said he did not like reading the Sunday Times Rich List because he wasn’t on it.
A writer should be a philosopher. One wrote to another asking if you made a list of all the lists in the world, should the list of lists be on it? A friend, another one, I have more than one, said yes. I had not asked him, I merely posed the question. What philosophers get up to. They must do something in the groves of Academe.
Anyway, concentrate. How? Shut out all other influences, blank them out and concentrate on the matter in hand. In this case, writing. As a young journalist on my first day I had to write with the cacophonous noise of mechanical printing presses going hammer and tongs below my office. How can I write with this noise, I said to myself? But I did, by concentrating. The noise seemed to fade away and I became unaware of it.
Pity the poor war correspondent writing in the heat of battle. Shells flying overhead, not to speak of own goals. Hemingway was one such, and you know what happened to him. He shot himself. After winning the Nobel Prize, though those events are not linked. He stole his book titles from famous dead writers, they didn’t complain.
So, concentrate. And wait, if necessary. Develop your crap filter. The first thing that occurs to you may be crap, as our American cousins so delicately put it. It’s never good because you wrote it, who are you, your mother? Its good if its good, not otherwise.
The mood of concentration is similar to meditation, but must not be artificially induced. Try writing while drunk, you’ll see what I mean. When you sober up. Yes, it is a state of transcendence, transcend mundane things. As described above. Concentrate on what you’re doing, its that simple. How will I say this? What comes next? What follows? Wait, and it comes to you. Given you blot out everything else.
There’s a ton more to say on this subject, but this is not a book. Learn by doing. Be your severest critic. If you got it wrong, try another way. Don’t give up.
That’s how I do it, anyway. And did. And kept my journalistic job. Until I preferred the pub to work. Who wouldn’t? Now, I like them both. If it comes too easily to you its mostly but not always crap. There are no absolute rules. When you get better at it you have got better at concentrating, not writing. That’s what its all about. Concentration.
Who said it was easy?
27th April, 2016