The writing life is full of snags and snares, setbacks, tanglements, diversions and dead ends. Written words demand so much mental application – from the writers who deal in them, and the readers who receive them. After all, before the writer’s meaning can be de-coded, willing victims readers must actively choose to engage.
Even then, nothing is certain. Reader engagement is always provisional. Only when the decision is made – that sticking with the decoding process will yield rewards, do writers have the chance to have their say.
Readers want a good pay-off from the writer’s words. But for their part, writers cannot read readers’ minds to know precisely what they expect. It’s all very precarious.
Interaction-wise, the applied and performing arts definitely have the edge. They communicate directly with an audience’s senses and emotions, often bypassing the need for intellectual effort input altogether. Reactions to such works may be superficial and fleeting, and the creators’ deepest intentions not fully grasped, but engagement at some level swiftly takes place. The experience is vivid in its fullest sense. Excitement can be instantaneous. Written texts simply cannot compete with this kind of immediacy.
Also words can be such tricky things. Lumpy. Clumsy. Rife with ambiguity. Achieving absolute clarity on the page involves hard labour, although this is only half the battle. In fiction writing plain speaking is not enough. The construction must be affecting. Fascinating. There must be mystery –at the very least the hook of: ‘how will this turn out?’ Then there is the matter of authenticity and the creation of a convincing, fully functioning reality. (Even fantasy worlds must have believable existence.)
In its crudest form, writing a story is like devising and setting a trap. How do you lure in the reader? What does it take to hold them until the final word is read?
So this means there’s a craft to be learned, and practised and practised. Then practised some more. And when you finally release your carefully worked contrivance onto the unsuspecting and uninterested world there will be rejection. (See Lynn Love’s post on this and how to murder it HERE). It is part of the learning process. It teaches you to target your work more carefully; to read more; to develop powers of objective self-appraisal; to learn from negative comments; to become better at what you do.
You also need to bear in mind that this apprenticeship may take a life-time; that success in material terms may never happen. The act of creating is a vocation; an act of faith too. But at the heart of it, you write because you must. Perhaps that should be enough. I seem to have hopes of it. It anyway keeps me going – one word at a time.
copyright 2016 Tish Farrell
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