A few remarks on the writing habit

2022-01-19 @Blog

The perpetual challenge, self-imposed and practiced on a continuous, if not a daily basis: beyond any extrinsic motive, transforming thoughts into written expressions had become a highly gratifying practice for as long as I recall.

Plenty of my acquaintances have likewise expressed desire for the same, yet feel constricted either in the stage of inception or the making it a consistent habit.

As far as developing the writing ability, beyond the simple act of continued repetition, I can only recommend much quality reading: incidentally, another of my passions.

Nonetheless, a frequent doubt I hear (among the sector reluctant to begin until some entirely imprecise level of reading/writing aptitude develops): doing precisely the parenthetical.

Like most pragmatic approaches to skill development, I suggest abandoning any expectation for readiness, letting the learning and practice stem in parallel from the beginning:

Practice -> learn -> assimilate -> practice -> learn -> assimilate …

Easier yet: read, write, read, write, write, read, read, write, read, and so on, in whatever combination you care.

Another factor which I can’t reconcile as anything but a farce, is the ‘New Years resolution’ phenomenon: the bug to necessarily wait until the turn of the year, the acquisition of a new, glorified, hard-bound, designer notebook with a luxury pen to accompany. Or something to the likes.

Don’t feed illusions. Start now. Don’t attach importance to the medium, save for a sufficiently accommodating surface, lines and ink.

Though it doesn’t always work out, when it does, I even more savor the humble, hacked together means: a napkin, a tear-out leaflet, an index card, a takeout menu, a paper cup cardboard holder (or the takeout cup itself, flattened); or even that faded book whose pages might as well serve for writing paper.

Something in the nature of working with limiting means leads to a more rewarding journey. Even so, it’s not an easy journey. Even the years of practice have not prevented the frequent creative lapses, nor alleviated the struggle for expression.

Whenever consumed by blockades, it’s inevitably the following stepwise heuristic which pulls me out of a rut:

  1. Begin to transcribe whatever tips of whatever icebergs of whatever fragmentary ideas alight along the surface.
  2. Relax any rigid expectation for closure, quality or cohesion.
  3. Let the noise filter, while the fits of congruency settle upon the soil of what might germinate into the first sloppy draft.
  4. Revise, compact, expand, split, consolidate over as many iterations as you deem necessary and manageable.
  5. Append a catchy title, which need not strictly encapsulate all content.

I often fall into the trap of neglecting the initiative to engage the paper. Armed with merely abstract motives, I expect ideas to simply transpire.

Yet the process far from always follows this flow of causality. Sometimes I must strictly begin to improvise phrases through intuition until they acquire a tangible shape.

And the above doesn’t strictly refer to creative writing. It may relate to any topic that I’ve yet to elaborate into a sufficient number of bullets.

I also tend to clasp to a specific ‘bag’ of ideas, negligent to explore anything beyond. Yet when we consider the potential for creative writing, words not only follow ideas: ideas also stem from words.

Every little nuance is worthy of quality prose, provided you exercise the patience and the care to cultivate it.

As a not-terribly-difficult case, imagine a paperback book in a devastatingly loose condition, cover barely intact, crusts abundant, text sufficiently faded to repurpose into a notebook, prose spectacular, appeal surprisingly high. In how many unique forms of expression could one not articulate such still life?

Questions, comments? Connect.