Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tolstoy in Spurs, Or, Feeling Better About Writin' Wroten Wrotten

If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write,” said famous western author Louis L’Amour. “Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.”

This might mean something more to me if I’d ever read a Louis L’Amour book. I’m still tinkering with Zane Grey, and that’s only because Col. Sherman Tecumseh Potter likes Zane Grey – or as Charles Emerson Winchester III calls him, “Tolstoy with spurs.”

This does have meaning, however, when you consider all the navel-gazing writers do, and the style of navel-gazing I tend to do as well. So I like this approach. It kind of reminds me of what Ray Bradbury says about writing, which is also similar:

Don't think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It's self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can't try to do things. You simply must do things.

Tolstoy on spurs himself said this about writing:

I love my work but do not know how I write it.

That’s what I’m doing. I’m doing things. That’s what I remind myself constantly.

And this:

I don’t want to be that kind of a writer.

And I also try not to think too much about writing. Reading books about writing is the worst. Right now, I’m reading “The 101 Habits of Successful Screenwriters,” which my wife picked up at Dollar Tree, of all places. I always wonder what kind of loathing goes through an author if he or she sees his or her work on sale at the dollar store. I suppose it happens. Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered why Hollywood films are formulaic and derivative and dull, well, read this book. I mean yes, there are some good movies out there, just as there are good novels. There are also bad movies, just as there are bad novels. I am surprised to see how rigidly screenplays are approached, however. But, I guess it’s like Harry Flugelman says: “Stray from the formula, you pay the price.”

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