Come writers and critics – Who prophesize with your pen – And keep your eyes wide – The chance won’t come again – And don’t speak too soon – For the wheels still in spin – And there’s no tellin’ who – That it’s namin’ – For the loser now – Will be later to win – For the times they are a-changin’ (The Times They are A-Changing – Bob Dylan)
I just want to say a word about the Auto-Instructional Text in Correct Writing – first, second and any other issue that might have come along. It’s about as auto-instructional as a text that might tell you how to do brain surgery on yourself. With the spine barely cracked, there’s a reason this book has sat untouched on my bookshelf for so long.
Having said that – my experience of working with an editor, line by line through my novel, tells me in no uncertain terms that a grasp of correct writing is a must and at long last I am motivated enough to learn. With this motivation, examples from my own writing, and an excellent teacher, I have been able to pull out the auto-instructional text and actually learn something. Though it is slow going and I have a lifetime of bad habits to correct.
We are proceeding with the editing process – my editor is editing and sending detailed notes. I am making the needed corrections and taking copious notes, referring to the text and trying to get this stuff to sink in. Then I work two chapters ahead of the editing, putting what I’ve learned into effect. I have a long way to go, but a faint glimmer of a light has come on.
I’m not sure if it’s my age or this creating and crafting process, but I am constantly humbled at the manner in which I can state something one day, feeling fairly confident, and then with equal confidence, retract that same opinion the next day. For example – when I realized the novel would need such an overhaul in terms of correct language usage I wasn’t all that perturbed. I think I even said, “Well, that’s no big deal. You can always get someone to help you with stuff like that. It’s the ability to imagine the story, to create the characters and the various jams they get themselves into, which really matters to me.”
I’m relieved I didn’t proclaim my thoughts too far and wide (though I realize I am doing that now – but with insight all a writer’s arrogance is cannon fodder) because, I now understand these thoughts to be ridiculous. Creating and crafting are two sides of the same coin. If you can’t adequately express your thoughts, with clarity and an awareness of what the written language can accomplish, then you aren’t releasing your true creative power.
This reminds me of a short story I read some time ago by Timothy Findley called, A Bag of Bones, from a book of short stories entitled, Dust to Dust. Don’t quote me on the exact details – but the story went something like this. There’s a husband and a wife, both of whom are published authors, though their individual styles could not be further apart. She would write frantically in the downstairs den – producing scads of pages per day. Her desk and all the surfaces in the room were littered with overflowing ashtrays and plates of left-over food. Manuscript pages were coffee-stained and scattered about. He, on the other hand, worked in an upstairs space, which was faultlessly neat – not a paper out-of-place and no coffee allowed in the room at all. He produced four or five superbly crafted sentences over the course of the entire day. They would come together in the evening for dinner and over copious amounts of wine, discuss their daily progress. I can’t remember if there was a respect for one another’s distinct style in these discussions – but it seems that these two writers represent the extreme ends of the spectrum that creating and crafting could represent.
The main point of the story, in my opinion, is that they both published. I suspect she had to do some crafting while she created and he obviously was creating as he crafted and they probably both took about the same amount of time to complete a given work of equal length. But don’t quote me on this opinion because I may recant tomorrow!