Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Writing Style and Craft, Part 1

“Craft” is a word that reminds me of St Andrews School in Malawi, where we had art and craft classes. I can't remember enjoying those classes much because i had no eye for detail when it came to dealing with ribbons, glue, fabrics and things like that.

My sister used to be great at it. I still treasure the flowers she used to make from fabric. She used to knit, sew and make paintings with an artist's eye for things. It's amazing how different siblings can be. However, her love for crafts stayed at a hobby level.

Some one in my team asked me today what I would define 'writing style' as and to be honest, I felt stumped. I was reminded of the wise words of Dr. Joseph Schlessinger, chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at Yale's School of Medicine and the founder of three biotechnology companies in the US who stated "....... it's very hard to manage science when you have huge teams of people."

When it comes writing style, I know what it is but when i think about the hundreds of different writing styles that one comes across, the word “craft” is what immediately pops up. It is hard to define coz the writing style differs from person to person and subject to subject. If it is law that you are writing on, a specific technical style comes into play. If you are writing a novel, the boundaries are limitless. If you are writing a travel brochure, a creative but engaging style is what you need to focus on. At the same time, writing becomes priceless for the writer when it becomes craft.

"Craft" has a new meaning now because it is something I want to bring into my writing. We can't forget how lonely a writer's world is, though it is populated with thoughts about people, events and interesting scraps of conversations. Despite all of this, I truly believe a writer's job is very lonely.

In Maya Reynold's words( Source: http://mayareynoldswriter.blogspot.com/2009/03/self-doubt-and-writer.html), "We sit in front of a desk or table and pour our hearts into a manuscript. While I was writing that first novel, I didn't seek any feedback. But it wasn't so much self-doubt as it was shyness. I was embarrassed to share the fruits of my labor with anyone."

I think I can relate easily to this. When I sit down to write, there is so much i want to write about but the loneliness bogs me down and gets to me. Writing is never easy because it takes me hours to conceptualize and grasp why I want to write something and why that effort should translate into something enjoyable or meaningful for the reader. I work on honing techniques over and over again till I feel like I can't think another thought without feeling pain.

The famous writer Virginia Woolf talked about missing parties because she couldnt combine it with "keeping my imaginary people going.” Bingo! Now you know how lonely it can be, even for the really famous writers.

In Victoria magazine (January 2009, visit the source http://www.booksandsuch.biz/blog/2009/03/the-work-of-writing/#comment-634) Jan Karon says, “When I write, I dive headlong into the work as into a river, where I swim for my life, or, depending on the tenor of the story, float on my back, gazing at the clouds. I inhabit that river for five hours or two minutes, ten or thirty, whatever the day may yield. When there’s nothing more to say or conjure, I make my way to the shore, trying to separate fiction from fact, and get on with the business of living.”

I think this is very relevant because that is how intense the process of writing really is. I come about this topic today because nowadays I am dealing with so many queries from team members about writing and I consider myself a bit of an amateur writer even now. I look at an article and usually say to my team members, “Good work, please do it again.”

I think I do that because I know writing is a way of constantly evolving yourself. It can never reach an end. You have to go on trying to make it perfect and be grateful when it does turn perfect.

Over two decades, I am still struggling with my craft. People say they love to read what I write but I dont and that means I havent found my craft yet. But someday, i know i will.

Here are some links that are worth visiting for writers who are keen to work on their 'craft:'

1. http://robustwriting.com/how-to-write-error-free-a-10-point-checklist
2.http://robustwriting.com/the-1-rule-for-writing-with-style
3.http://robustwriting.com/how-to-write-more-creatively-by-acting-like-a-musician

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