Every time I start writing something new, I find myself asking these questions:
- Can I write it?
- Can I write it well?
- What will people think if I can’t write it well?
- What kind of a writer will I be if I constantly can’t write well?
- Should I be writing at all?
I know it is not just me. All writers have these demons they constantly fight. You have to if you want to write. You have to grapple with these fears, put them out of your mind, and go for it. Some people can’t do it. For some people, it’s too paralyzing.
Some writers constantly worry, “What if I can’t get published? What is the point of writing, then? How do I get published?
They get so preoccupied with these questions that they never give themselves a chance to truly experience the art of what they’re doing. Which incidentally is the big payoff.
Writing itself is a payoff for all the work we do.
The great success as a writer isn’t getting published but is making those paragraphs sane.
It’s in discovering ideas in yourself that you never thought were there.
That’s where the greatness lies.
The greatness doesn’t lie in getting published or getting a great review in some newspaper or magazine. Or receiving lots of claps. They are nice, but the greatness has to do with the feeling you have in yourself that you’ve created something important and the sense of accomplishment you feel while creating it.
Every paragraph you write, every sentence you construct, in a way, is your creation — by design, by meditation, by argument, by wondering, by analysis.
It is your artwork to convey whatever you want to say.
Every paragraph is part of the story you are telling.
Every sentence is a piece of one puzzle.
If you concentrate on the sentences and paragraphs, make them so beautiful that your own soul gets immersed in their beauty, then no outer reward is going to matter.
Good writing holds its reader’s hand and leads her through the unfurling of itself, pointing back to the last step and forward to the next, showing her the map, reminding her of the destination. Good writing is a coherent journey back to the place where it began. It’s a circle. It’s a wall whose logic is implicit in every stone. In good writing, a reader finds it hard to get lost.
– Mark Tredinnick in The Little Red Writing Book
Are your paragraphs doing that?
Holding your reader’s hand and leading them back and through, out of the maze, in an effortless manner.
They don’t have to lead them straight out. There has to be some drama, some mystery, and a bit of uncertainty. In the hands of a good writer, readers enjoy all that.
Because in the hands of a good writer, they feel safe. They know when it is all over, they will be happy that they took the journey.
“Make your prose as you might make a drystone wall. You are not bonding the pieces; they just have to fit. How will you chisel each stone, how will you turn it and set it down so that it sits comfortably with its neighbors and carries the wall forward? “ — Mark Tredinnick
Whenever I feel too distressed with my own writing, I pull out Mark Tredinnick’s The Little Red Writing Book and start reading randomly. This is what he writes on the last page.
I wrote this book because I long, and I don’t think I am alone, to read more sentences so well made, so perfectly uttered, they make one weep — in their form and rhyme, in their topography and amplitude and the truthful spaces onto which the open. Let plots take care of themselves; it’s time more writers spent more care shaping astonishing sentences. Elegant, shapely, heartbreaking — in the way a mountain range ora horse, a woman’s form, a child’s voice, the posture of a tree, the taste of a wine can be.
Most of us worry too much about getting published than writing elegant, clear, and lovely prose that sings.
It is no small feat, hard to begin, and even harder to sustain. It is no good to be content with one or two good sentences.
“A work that aspires, however humbly, to the condition of art, should carry its justification in every line.” — Conrad
The struggle to improve our prose is the struggle to improve ourselves. Immerse yourself in that struggle and you will get your reward.