This is my second discussion post where I ponder upon some questions and I seek the answers from you.
You can check out my first discussion post where I ask you whether you like coincidences in books here.
This week I am thinking about- What is the secret of successful writing?
We all write something every day, whether be it emails, letters or blog posts. We all have a different writing style, different vocabulary and different tone to write.
Everyone has different writing methods and attitudes. To some writing is a daily chore, and to some it is a deep mysterious art, to others a painful affliction. For some writing flows fast and confidently; others agonise over every word they think of. For some writing is the result of a planned process, a thoughtful process after thinking about every little detail; others think it as a ‘spur of the moment thing’ and jump in heedlessly, leaving the polishing for later. Some write to make a living, some write for enjoyment. Some write from experience, some from imagination and the rest after painfully researching.
There are many professionals and all have their own writing style. That’s what defines them. Many people have different views about how a ‘Successful Writing’ piece should be.
I’m going to see the various types and then we’ll discuss what you think works the most.
Firstly, there are those who need a creative inspiration or a particular mood, like George Eliot, to write effectively. They in times suffer from what is called a ‘writer’s block’. Either the inspiration dries up or they cannot settle down to the tasks, even after getting abundant ideas. To put it another way, the problem is either what to write or how to write.
Others are extremely unromantic about the ‘business of writing’ as they would call it.They work regularly keeping a tight schedule for everyday and following it diligently. They treat creating a literary masterpiece no different than drafting legal contracts or even insurance claims.
Nicholas Monsarrat, author of The Cruel Sea, apparently used to work a regular nine-hour day in his study, starting at 6 a.m. the Italian novelist Alberto Moravia would spend three hours at his writing desk each day, between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m.
Some authors need absolute privacy and silence to concentrate properly. The French novelist Marcel Proust had to seclude himself in a cork-lined room before he could settle into a creative working mood. Others need the daily hustle and bustle of life to inspire their masterpieces.
Some authors write extremely quickly and fluently. Dr Johnson completed his short novel Rasselusin the space of a single week. Balzac could write 200 pages a week when the need arose; so too the French novelist Stendhal. Others could write with excruciating slowness: another great 19-century novelist, Gustave Flaubert, often managed no more than two pages a week- sometimes only a single page. His classic novel Madame Bovary took him five years of painful full-time writing.
Some authors, such as Anthony Burgees or the late A.P.J. Taylor, happily draft original material directly on a typewriter or word processor. Others, such as Roald Dahl and Fay Weldon, Iris Murdoch and Athol Fugard, seem to need the feel of a pencil or pen in the hand, as if there were some mystical connection between the moving hand and the creative mind.
And one more thing, in the great divide between business-like ‘craftsmen’ author and moody ‘artistic’ authors, the everyday writer, in my opinion, should come down on the business-like approach. The creative ‘once-my-mood-gets-better’ writer may produce greater poetry or deeper novels, but in everyday writing it falls flat.
Of all business-like authors, Anthony Trollope’s daily routine remains the best known and the most impressive. For most of his writing life, he had a full-time job as a civil servant with the Post Office and his enormous output of over 60 books was the product of his leisure hours. Along with his busy life, he found 15 to 20 hours a week for his writing. Day after day, year and year, he would sit at his desk between 5:30 and 8:30 in the morning , writing 1000 words an hour after planning each novel thoroughly.
Business-like such authors may be, they are not always without superstitions. Melvyn Bragg insists on writing for a Monday morning writing the first word for a new novel. The 19- century French novelist Honore de Balzac insisted on having an unripe apple on his desk, and Alexandre Dumas, creator of The Three Musketeers, would always write bedsocks while writing whereas Roald Dahl favours large yellow notepads.
So the question is- All these writers differ so widely in their working methods, what guidance can we derive from them?
Perhaps, I think, to take writing seriously, and to work intensely at getting it right- that is expressing your thoughts as clearly and accurately as possible.
What do you think? Do you write fast- or take your time in plotting everything? Do you treat writing as a business or as an art? Do you believe in superstitions while writing? If yes, then do tell!