Monday, June 04, 2007

Rant Gone Bad

So, you want to learn to write. You want to get to the marrow of it all? You want get that voice on paper and out of your head? I understand, completely. I do, too. But I think I've gotten pretty close to giving up. That doesn't mean that I can't help teach writing. Matter of fact, that is a simmering dream of mine: to teach writing, but there's a problem with that: "you can't teach some how to write." You either got it, or you don't. I know that was bad grammar, maybe even cliched, but it was effective. See, that's writing.

I have a voice in my head. Loud, high pitched and slightly inebriated. The kind of slurred voice one has after three or four vodka tonics, or high balls, or maybe some screwdrivers. Its an elfin voice, my particular bug-a-boo of a voice is Capote. I don't know why that elfin, good-time boy took residence in my head. I wish he would leave. Whenever I write about writing while typing I hear Capote blearily say"that's not writing, that's typing." Oh, I'm sorry, my fault, I used an adverb: "blearily." Sign of bad writing. Stay away from adverbs, says so in Stunk and White, the bible for writers. (An aside: it is my opinion that "the little grey book" aka The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White is the only book you need to be a writer and pages 70-85 are the fifteen most important pages you'll ever need to read. Those 21 rules are gospel and commandment all rolled into one.) He's right, Capote is, it really isn't writing, it is indeed typing. I can't write by hand. The words tumble out too quickly. My hand can't keep up, so my fingers do what they can.

Where ever I go I have paper and pen: in my blue bag I take to work, in my desk (an oblong green sketch pad that I have written in intermittently since Houston, I had high hopes for that one, but alas it didn't pan out), I have small moleskin notebook, too. Today, I was nippin and tuckin the writing journals and I found one that I liked, I almost bought it with the intention of "writing in it," wouldn't of worked. I'd of written something, but then that pour journal would end up in a corner somewhere dusty. The start of the last sentence "I'd of" is left over from my time in the Appalachians. That's straight Appalachian right there. "I'd of..." bad writing? I don't know. What do I know about good or bad writing.

I work in a bookstore. So, I guess I might know good writing when I see it. I don't. I know what I like and what I don't. I don't know if what I like is good writing. How can I make that decision? Who am I?

You know who started this thought in my head? These thoughts, I should say, and no, it wasn't Capote. It was Tim O'Brien. His book The Things They Carried always beats me over the head. What amazing stuff. I wish I had a thimble of his talent, I don't not even close. I'm a wack job next to him. His book would be my textbook in my writing class, well that and the "little grey book." There would be no tests, but there would be writing. My how there would be writing. My students write until their hands bled. They would hate me. I would make them go deep. Deep into places they wouldn't talk about. I break them. They'd hate me. But they'd survive. They'd write it. They'd have no choice.

I freely give my opinion when I'm reading someone's work. I'm not sure they appreciate it. I should probably stop giving my opinion. My opinion doesn't count for much any way. I'm no critic, I'm an unfulfilled writer. There are shelves and shelves of books that tell me how to write, how to put a word, a thought, an idea on paper. Write that novel THIS year. Here is the proper way to write a poem (oh, please, tell me). I zoned through that section today I should never zone through the how-to write section at 0600, because I brood. Just like I shouldn't zone in the cookbooks after 1600, I dwell on the covers and get hungry and disappointed that I can't cook like that.

So, you want to write? You want to be a writer? Why? What is it that you want? You want to be a writer? Fine, go write. Go ahead. I'll be here, waiting. I'll just go read the master Tim O'Brien. I'll go read my writing class textbook.

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