Thursday, July 17, 2014

When the rules of writing arbitrarily dictated become chains of your own making, voluntarily worn.

I get in this habit of making long replies to posts that link to a writing article that states "The Rules" as one particular author or poet or another believes them to be.

To wit, the link please:

Poetess dictating rules of writing as absolutes to her class of young, impressionable poets and writers.

I originally posted back, after following the link, that some of the rules were valid, but some of them could be harmful.  The original poster inquired as to which ones I thought to be harmful, and here below is my reply.

I give you..

"When Rules Fail A Winning Game"

Written By
Arthur William Hermansen
Copyright 2014 / All Rights Reserved

I'd start with don't write what you don't know. Ever. There are no absolutes, to begin with.

Taking this advice literally as written in stone precludes writing what you are becoming.

Writing what you are becoming occurs (not exclusively) in the transformational act of creativity itself - the real time act of writing, while the finger are moving and the mind is listening or speaking, depending on the type of creative act one is experiencing at the time.

More specifically, it would be like starting out with one idea, and in the middle of hashing it out while capturing flow (sometimes you don't need an outline, one small piece of inspiration can commence the process just fine - especially in poetry and often in prose) you have an evolution in perspective or POV on the original idea and go with it because this happens in the real time act of creativity.

This is caused by the channel opening wider between (what the teacher you went to calls, "The Waltz between the mind and the soul.") the conscious perception of receiving the creative work from the unconscious. If its a waltz, which is a slow dance, then a particular type of work of one specified rate of capture is being processed.

However the conscious mind is capable of processing 40 bits of information per second. The unconscious, however, is capable of 11 million bits per second. This indicates that there are many more speeds that just waltz.

However, not all creative people have multiple speed capture aspects to their creative faculty. Some just have one speed. Perhaps it was the extreme familiarity with this capture rate that led your instructor to believe that the speed at which she got stuff was the sole and arbitrary definition in existence, when this is perhaps only her perception of what exists, not what all exists.

I have multiple speeds. I believe most creative people do because that is how the faculty is built. We just don't know about creativity or ourselves enough to recognize all we are developing within.

An example of some higher rates are evidenced by an experience I had when I was an early stage creator and outlined 10 science fiction novels in one four and a half hour wait at a bus stop in Ventura to go home to Santa Barbara. Talk about a good time for a writer.  That outline was done on one 3" X 5" note pad.  It was simultaneously an exercise in precise penmanship and page space utilization efficiency.

Another example would be being woken up by something in the middle of the night, and knowing you have to honor the creative process (I will blog the whole story eventually once I get it into the schedule) and write it down.

So you wake up, perhaps grumble and get down the bones. But the bones are not enough for your creative faculty, which has no sense of the temporal so doesn't even know it's waking you up; it just knows you create and it helps you because it is you, and delivery time for finished material, or perhaps more appropriately, material that is done in the incubation stage and is ready for more formal literary technique and skill application to move toward a full or complete artistic expression, has arrived.

Sometimes a whole pie comes out of the oven, not just a slice to coin a metaphor.

So in the previous reference, I got up and wrote a 21 page film script treatment in about 45 minutes or so. Eminently satisfied, (as honoring oneself does) I laid the legal pad aside and flopped gratefully back into slumber town.

I had closed my eyes for but scant seconds and the rewrite was practically plastering itself onto the inside of my eyelids.  I had to honor up again and write the second draft of the treatment.  It took another hour and blossomed to 26 pages with dialogue this time, tighter character relationships - you know the things that mark more crafted work.

I flopped back down, slept for three hours and woke up so perfectly rested, I was amazed.

Why was I amazed?

Because I had flopped into bed the night before in a hotel that had no electricity and thus no hot water.

Why was this?

Because I was a refugee from the 100 year storm in Santa Barbara, and my old video studio in the MonOlive area of Santa Barbara, where much of the movie business was born (despite the exclusivity Hollywood will try to get you to believe for well - the economic reasons associated with an exclusivity argument) was under six feet of floodwater.  I was freaking out about the safety of my body of work and studio equipment.

The body of work and studio I was protecting from the flood of the 100 year storm by sandbagging outside the studio for the previous 72 hours straight.

So waking up perfectly refreshed after all that with just three hours of sleep was really, really weird to say the least.

However, I know now it was a primal cue thing, and you nor your instructor are ready for that discussion.  It is a long one to relate, even in my circumspect hand.

So I trudged out looking for coffee, found some, sat down and the third draft jumped right into my brain.  

These relations are all examples of rates of incoming material from the unconscious to the conscious mind.  I had to write it. 

It was not a hard decision because I had knocked out the first two right? And I had two large fresh coffees in front of me (I don't like to stand in line for a second cup and interrupt the creative flow. It seems idiotic and certainly is counterproductive).

The sun was coming out, the floodwater was receding from all reports, and optimism was growing inside me that my studio and body of work had survived.

That confident feeling gave me the comfort to not worry so much and I gave the third draft some real power user (the literary skill kind) effort and just two hours later I had a 45 page short film script entirely written by hand.

This was in the pre personal computer days in 1983.

At that moment, and literally at that moment, a director whom I'd written for before when he was a Film Studies student at The Brooks Institute showed up with his girlfriend. They had driven up from LA to see how their friends had done in the storm.

I told them I had an amazing story. He replied considering the night before, everyone had one, and I said, "no, I mean story story." 

He looked at the sheaf of papers.  His girlfriend took them from me. We sat and talked as she read them and she put them down and looked at him saying, "If you don't make this, I will."

And in my experience, that is how things often get done in show business.

So you see, there are a multitude of triggers and methods and adaptations of the act of creation. To know as many of them as you can and to utilize as many methods as you can adapt is reciprocally related to the number of works you will produce in your lifetime as well as the qualitative excellence of said work.

One of the reasons we have such a stagnant culture to begin with (Hollywood, television, publishing - even most Internet) is because of rules based thinking. You gotta have it done by Friday, we shoot on Monday. It's a page one rewrite before morning. I have a blog schedule to keep to for my social media marketing and content strategy. 

Seems like there is no time for wine making writing.  I know that is where hits are born.

That is not to say to ignore the rules, but we have been taught that you have to learn the rules before you can break them, but that is not an absolutely ironclad view.

In fact, they can be chains of one's own devising, voluntarily put on through blind guru like devotion to someone we admire. 

 As a woman, you know love can be like this from a woman's POV quite often. Love and art enjoy deeper links than you think.

A rigid grammarian might keep you rewriting something ad infinitum ad nauseum when your audience well understood it a few drafts ago.  Your next idea is stagnating on deck in your unconscious ready to consciously materialize.  But you are working against yourself at the faculty that counts the most for your rich life experience and your career.

Another example of erroneous thinking is, "Great writing doesn't happen by chance." Wow! What an opportunity destroyer.

Does this lady intend to hobble everyone in her sphere of influence by peddling this dangerous ignorance?

Great writing does happen by chance, and that chance is favored by the prepared mind.

Being a good observer, a quick mind and eye, a good ear, an experienced, broad persona - and more, allows you as a writer to capitalize on thing that happen fast and inspire high res, high speed reflections that can lead to amazing poetry or prose if you allow that mental sprinter - your imagination - the chance to get out of the gate.

More easily accomplished with an open mind rather than rigidistic pre-interpretation blockades to perception.

An example of this, from my own experience as that is all the authenticity I can truthfully offer, happened one day I was riding on the bus to my machine shop job.

The sun was just rising, and where I got off to walk the rest of the way to work was a large field of grass in front of a community center. The coastal California has interesting sunrise humidity distributions.  In just a few seconds of sunlight, morning fog on or near the ground can heat up and rise quickly.  Imagine seeing a ghost fly away.

It disappears just as fast. That morning, I saw it happening, and relished my good fortune at seeing nature's active artistry, just for me. What I did not see what the dove that had been on the ground, half hidden in the mist.

My coming into the area startled the dove, and it flew off the ground at the same rate of speed as the quickly lifting mist in the new sun's heat blast.

It's wings beat at a pace so that the mist, as it disappeared, visually matched (match frame is the cinematographic/editing technique) the opacity of the moving white wings of the dove.  

The visual simultaneous simile and juxtaposition of them got me so inspired, I sat down at a nearby bench and wrote a several stanza poem comparing the wing of a dove to the light show of the sunrise and the whisper of the mist and well, I don't really have to explain more because you are a poet, you know what kind of eloquence can avail to one when such inspiration is presented.

But it was presented in the blink of an eye, and had I not had the calmness, quick thinking and broad-mindedness to instantly recognize the relationship between the dove's wing and the fleeting mist of same color as a conceptual comparison, well, poetic rhyme might not have struck me so easily, and one of the best poems I'd written that year may never have existed.

I've duped it before to be completely forthcoming.

Once I saw a man lying on the grass spasming and kicking, getting weaker and weaker as I drove past. I could not stop and I thought for the life of me the man was having a heart attack or stroke, and was dying.  I was watching death take him, real time.

It hit my sensitive poet side so hard, I wrote a poem of death and life and strangers and disconnected humanity. Yeah, imagine those verses, and how slow and laborious they were to write. Yet I had to write them.

It stuck with me all day. It would with you too, if you've got one toe in this pool of life we all swim in.

Later that day, after it got a little bit less heavy, I spoke about it to my boss's son.

"Maybe he just had the DT's," he said.

It struck me hard he was right. The old man was a wino, and was just having a case of deliriums tremens!  He had not been dying at all. I had been completely wrong.

I did walk the town for two weeks looking for the man just so I could satisfy myself he was still alive. I finally saw him and realized I had completely let my creative imagination get the best of me in entirety.

Yet, had I not been watching the area and not just the road, a very powerful poem, very powerful indeed (even though it was inspired by what I thought I saw instead of what I actually saw) would have never been written. 

Resultantly, the big question any writer of worth must eventually face in prose or poetry - questions about or impressions of - death, I would perhaps have missed the artistic developmental chance at.

This last case, however, does agree somewhat with your instructor's tenet about Universal Themes, but breaks down when you go to a dance to write a poem.  The lightheartedness of everyday people having complete abandonment of their cares and the music drives you, and you write something bright and light while the words dance along with the band.

There are several other examples of light hearted writing I could cite, but you get the idea by now.

A writer should avail themselves of as much experience in life as they can.  The Hemingway Rule of Writing is in effect here (My coining of the rule title).

"Great experience is great writing."

One does not have Universal Theme experiences all the time in an average day. One of the most important things to remember about story, whether poetry put or prose put, is to 'remember gravity.' The audience relates to the everyday world, and so should something in the work as well, whether the POV or the character behavior, or whatever. Several devices are available to a professional scribe.

One of the most beautiful women I ever saw in my entire life at a cafe in Paris at lunchtime I would have never noticed had it not been for the fact she had just drunk from her glass of red wine.

Her friend said something funny, she smiled with the red wine still splashing across her teeth.  In that instant somebody took a picture of a fountain nearby.  The mist from the water reflected the flash of the camera bulb. It's angle made a second reflection on the sheeny surface of the wine as it splashed across her teeth, because she could not not smile.  Yet the wine was in her mouth, and ruby sun shone forth from this woman's face complimenting her lipstick and hair ribbon, and how many stanzas do you think that was worth?

You gotta be of agile mind and observant to catch these things in the world. Heavy, heavy, heavy doesn't cut it in this arena.  So amend the Universal Themes bit and cut the Sylvia Plath fanboidom.  She fucking killed herself, OK? That's ample proof she wasn't right in the head, and while her work may have been fab, her example of living was not, and emulation issues exist because of the truth of the reality.  Deadly issues.  

You don't have to cut off your ear to be a great painter. If you do, you're a person with an issue that paints great. Not a suffering artist.  The bad suffering and the good art are separate.  They just happen to live in the same person, say for example, a bipolar person.  Ask Rosanne Barr about this.

Unless you want to write fifty poems about how your love for Jesus makes your heart feel and believe that actually constitutes your entire range of talent, experience and body of work.

But that would be a narrow interpretation of the rules, which is the point I am trying to make. Rules are made to be broken, and then there are rules that were never meant to be rules at all and should be thrown out the moment they are uttered and the speaker bitch-slapped out of the salon.  

Look at the world with fresh eyes. Well, this is almost mandatory for early curve creative maturity.  But as you age as a literary artist, and grow as a literary artist, there are some things out there that are just going to be the same forever. Like assholes, covetousness and gold digging. If you are going to drill down into drama, which is what we all do if we choose to live in this thing we call society, you can be sure you are enmeshed in it also. To not explore that, even if it is not Academy Award caliber work, is to deny part of your true self. Because it may lead somewhere important.

If you are trying to look at everything with fresh eyes all the time, you may miss opportunity at finding a new twist on the same ole same old, and bring your audience originality that hits home rather than giving them escape. 

Each approach has merit.

There are several kinds of writing, you see. You owe it to yourself to see if more than poetry is in your bag of tools and tricks and talents.

This last example of 'the rules' bugs me a little bit.

Write for 10 minutes every morning to get the garbage out of your head. That garbage at the top of the mind in the morning could be some of the most valuable insight you creatively receive. You may just not have all the equation given to you at once, because the unconscious has no pro forma requirement to give you a full solution to a creative problem each and every time you get something. Maybe it's just being a neural matrix, like brains are in the real reality, and giving you part of the answer to free up network resources to do the rest of the work.

Capture everything. Keep faithful notes no matter how 'vomity' (to use the directive of the great Gilda Radner "just vomit it out onto paper") it looks or feels. Waste nothing. It is all you. Why do you throw yourself away just because you don't immediately understand or contextualize something rationally? 

This is sheer idiocy and self sabotage at it's subtle finest.

As far as writer's block is concerned, it is the mark of the rank amateur or blame based co-dependent or the neanderthal origin myth perception of creativity to believe in it's existence. The method for disproving it is so simple and self-demonstrative I gladly leave that cleaning up chore to you. It should grind some of the rust out of your discovery methods.  

It's the first rule in my fame consulting business: get out of your own way.

Originality of presentation I would take down off the web if I were you.  I cite the quality of uniqueness.

I bet you know the names of every guy who wants to sleep with you right now, and what his chances really are. I bet those guys don't know that.

So you can play the Ovid routine and dance the Homer dance for as long as your instructor wants. But someday, that's going to get heavy, tired, trite, jaded and painfully and obviously apparent it is not everything you could be experiencing or creating artistically.

Nor are you, in that state, seeking every opportunity you could be nurturing the chance at the one thing we all are after in life whether we know it or not, whether we are living a lie or not, whether we are fooling ourselves or not.

We all want to discover something. 

Those of us who choose that thing to be truth often make a better brand of poetry and a better brand of creator and a better brand of time well spent living life.


The Lone Comic TM
Defender of Creativity and Entertainment SM

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