Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Some write ideas

This post from a little while back on Linda Cracknell’s excellent Walking and Writing blog took me to this feature in The Guardian.

Lots of the usual strongly held but yawn-worthy prescriptions and proscriptions about adverbs and adjectives, exclamation points, working regularly, and cutting ruthlessly, but the points that appeal most to me were mostly not about the process at all. Here’s Richard Ford. (Naturally, I think he’s utterly, stupendously wrong at number 2, but it’s still a point that makes a point. I especially like his final three.):

1. Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea.
2. Don’t have children.
3. Don’t read your reviews.
4. Don’t write reviews. (Your judgment's always tainted.)
5. Don’t have arguments with your wife in the morning, or late at night.
6. Don’t drink and write at the same time.
7. Don’t write letters to the editor. (No one cares.)
8. Don’t wish ill on your colleagues.
9. Try to think of others’ good luck as encouragement to yourself.
10. Don’t take any shit if you can ­possibly help it.

My experience tells me that Neil Gaiman is profoundly right about this, his Number 5:

Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

And David Hare’s Number 2 is another sophisticated bit of writer’s wisdom:

Never take advice from anyone with no investment in the outcome.

My primary advice to H in this area while she was young was simply “Don’t be a writer.” She’s grown up to be a doctor, but she’s also a sophisticated writer with wonderful senses of concision, shape, rhythm and nuance, and a precise  appreciation of the right word in the right place. She’s not just a writer, thank goodness, but I bet she’ll write.


Alan Sloman said...

Fascinating stuff here, Mark.
You read our Gruaniad over there?

I must delete the dreadful exclamation marks. !!!! AAAGH.

Mark Alvarez said...

Sometimes!!! On line, of course!!!!