Categories
Writing

Putting one word after another

There are days when writing is very much a case of just typing one word after another. Those are the days when you have to drag the words out of their hole and make them stay. There are better days too and I like how Neil Gaiman expresses it:

The process of writing can be magical — there times when you step out of an upper-floor window and you just walk across thin air, and it’s absolute and utter happiness. Mostly, it’s a process of putting one word after another.

On a related note, there is also the challenge of finding your voice when you write. My writing feels much easier when I use my voice (whatever that is – I tend to still stumble into it). Gaiman has great advice here too:

Tell your story. Don’t try and tell the stories that other people can tell. Because [as a] starting writer, you always start out with other people’s voices — you’ve been reading other people for years… But, as quickly as you can, start telling the stories that only you can tell — because there will always be better writers than you, there will always be smarter writers than you … but you are the only you.

And, yes, I am still on a writing-about-writing and Neil-Gaiman’s-advice-about writing kick …

Read more on Brain Pickings:

Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Aspiring Writers

Categories
Books Film Writing

The NeverEnding Story finally makes sense to me

I watched The NeverEnding Story when I was a child and I loved the movie. I remember it as being a movie that fanned my passion for reading and boy did I read as a child although, ironically, I’m not sure if I read the book too. I was one of those children who was reading a year or two ahead of the rest of the class. Mostly this was because I spent so much time in the school library.

The NeverEnding Story was one of my childhood favourites. If you don’t remember the story, it involves a terrible threat to the fantasy land of Fantasia (yes, that is the name) and a quest to save this land. At the same time, this is no ordinary quest. The whole thing is a story in a book read by our protagonist, Bastian.

It is a very “meta” story that, as I realised when I watched it with my children tonight, is the literary equivalent of “turtles all the way down”. I think I superficially understood the notion of a boy’s imagination creating whole worlds (that, in turn, were filled with beings whose imaginations created more worlds) when I first watched the movie.

That notion only really made sense to me this evening, partly with Neil Gaiman’s help. I’m currently reading his new book, “The View from the Cheap Seats”. I read something he said about the role of fiction authors and how they tell stories, on the train this afternoon. This part caught my attention, mostly because of his source code analogy:

We don’t give them the people or the places or the emotions. What we give the reader is a raw code, a rough pattern, loose architectural plans that they use to build the book themselves.

The combination of Gaiman’s quote and watching The NeverEnding Story from an adult’s perspective brought it all together for me. It only took me about 30 years to catch on.

At the risk of stating the obvious (bear with me, I seem to be a bit slow with this one):

  • The story Bastian reads, also called The NeverEnding Story, is, essentially, the same story we watch play out in the movie.
  • The story itself is just an arrangement of words and it requires the reader’s imagination to breathe life into this “raw code” and create the mystical world of Fantasia (or the not-so-mystical world of early 1980s America).
  • When we stop using our imaginations and reading fiction, the story’s Nothing starts erasing our fantasy constructs.
  • To rebuild these fantasy worlds, all you need is your imagination, plugged into a story of some kind.

This whole thing was a little too Inception for our son. At the same time, both kids finished off the movie on a real buzz. Our son grabbed a book on his way to bed and I found him reading it when I finally put him to sleep.

The movie is more than a little dated, for sure. But the story left our kids excited about books and stories, just as it left me excited about my next book when I watched it about 30 years ago. That is a win to me.

Image credit: The NeverEnding Story by ThiagoFragosso, licensed CC BY-ND 3.0

Categories
People Writing

“I believe that repressing ideas spreads ideas”

I read a great article on Brain Pickings about on Neil Gaiman‘s thoughts about writing, many of which are about writing as the transmission medium for ideas.

The article includes a number of great quotes from Gaiman’s writings about, well, writing. Another of my favourite extracts is this one:

Ideas, written ideas, are special. They are the way we transmit our stories and our ideas from one generation to the next. If we lose them, we lose our shared history. We lose much of what makes us human. And fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gift of seeing the world through their eyes.

I especially like this line about the value of fiction writing:

Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.

Read “The Power of Cautionary Questions: Neil Gaiman on Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ Why We Read, and How Speculative Storytelling Enlarges Our Humanity” in its entirety on Brain Pickings:

The Power of Cautionary Questions: Neil Gaiman on Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451,’ Why We Read, and How Speculative Storytelling Enlarges Our Humanity

Categories
Mindsets Writing

It’s ok to dislike your writing, just not yourself

I came across this great piece of advice from Neil Gaiman about how it’s ok to dislike your writing but you shouldn’t dislike yourself for writing it.

https://neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/139093894706/mr-gaiman-how-can-i-get-past-the-self-loathing-i

I may have a story in progress somewhere and I often wonder if I can write fiction well enough to be worth publishing. Being able to separate my feelings about my work and my feelings about myself for producing work that doesn’t meet my expectations of my work (as if I could actually have remotely reasonable expectations when I am still learning how to write well) makes it easier to treat the whole process as a learning experience and keep going.