You asked for it, and now yer gonna git it: the speech, more or less, that I delivered to a Metro State University Creative Writing Class Tuesday night. I spoke for roughly 25 minutes. There are no recordings, but this is what I recall…
I’ve learned many things in the last five years, the most important being that desk ergonomics are your friend. I’m here to tell you that typing all day and typing all night will make Jack one unhappy, tendonitis-afflicted dude. Learn from me, children, and protect your forearms.
People ask me how I find so many things to write about. That’s like saying, “Aren’t you worried you’ll run out of things to say?” Look at me. Do I look like someone who will run out of things to say? Now look at you. Trust me: you will never run out of things to say.
The truth is that writing is a skill. There is no such thing as a muse. The muse is you. The muse appears through dedication to writing. Turn off the distractions, head into your own mind, and get it down on paper. Hemingway said that all first drafts are shit – and isn’t that comforting? You’ve been freed of believing you must be perfect. Accept the idea that the first draft, like the first time you do anything, will not be fantastic – but that you are free to go back to look for the stilted language, the repetitive words, the conflicts between past and present tense. You are free to be imperfect, to be loose and unafraid.
The more you do this, the easier it becomes.
They say the ideal blog post is between 250 and 600 words. Beyond that number is “TL;DR” – Too Long; Didn’t Read. People come to blogs for just a moment, for a brief respite in the day. Me, I’m here only to share a snapshot, 300 to 400 words at a time. I am not looking to change the world, only to show you how I see things.
Sometimes the things I see are small. I was on the bus the other day when I pulled out my little book to jot down a quick idea. I overhear the women behind me whispering: “You know, I have my issues, but at least I’m not writing in my diary on the bus!”
Me! They’re making fun of me! I mean, seriously, do these gals know who I am?!
They got a good laugh out of what a weirdo I obviously was.
And so did I.
And that is as it should be: Everyone is somebody’s weirdo. Today, I am the weirdo. Tomorrow, it will be you.
Hopefully someone will write about it.
Too often, people get flowery with their prose, as if the more words they use, the more legitimate they will sound. Again with the Hemingway, but apparently F. Scott Fitzgerald asked Hemingway’s opinion on something he was writing. After reading it, Hemingway returned the transcript with a note to “lose all the very’s”.
For example: “A very beautiful woman walked into the bar.”
“A beautiful woman walked into the bar.”
Direct. Simple. Powerful.
Read your stuff with that in mind. Again and again. If you can read it without stumbling, if you can read it and hear yourself, you are on the right path. The reader should have a sense of who is speaking, feel that they know you. When I read my own stuff, I do my best to charm me. Do I believe what I am saying? Would I buy what I’m selling? When people come to read “Pearl”, they do so trusting me. I have what is called a “contract with the audience”. I don’t swear much, I don’t get political, I don’t lay blame or go on rants. Let other writers do that. We all have complaints, and I’m not going to add to your load by piling on mine. All I want is to make you laugh, maybe give you some insight into why people, in my experience, behave the way they do.
Writing, as in life, requires that we be fearless, that we edit when necessary, that we expand when called upon to do so.
Thank you so much allowing me to speak tonight.
Does anyone have any questions?