Tuesday, February 26, 2013

'I Wasn't Really Any Good'


Some days, when I look at my writing, I feel like the person Michael Caine’s character describes (here from the wonderful film “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”). I recognize my limitations. I may not be a moron, but I know I’ve got enough moronic qualities that I must actively work to become a moron’s antithesis. 

It’s like I tell my writing students: Maybe I’ll get better if I keep at it. Thing is with writing, once you reach a point where you can, say, write decently enough to pass a college English class, there’s more to do if you want to progress. Every peak accomplished reveals another one. And since I’m using such an icky cliché, you can imagine I’ve got many more peaks to climb. 

Part of what ails me I described to my English 106 students today: I’m too much of a fly by the seat of my pants writer. I don’t like to plan things. I can say clever things like “I want my characters to surprise me,” but I after re-reading what my characters have done without any pre-planning, I’ve got to say they’re pretty boring people. Or predictable at least. So I need to get more planning done before I write. And that’s hard – writing is easy. Writing to a plan that you painstakingly put together beforehand is a lot harder. 

That’s not all that ails me, of course. But it’s what I’m focusing on at the moment. 

More importantly, I’m not letting my shortcoming stop me from writing. And from getting better at it. 

This was the challenge for the day:

“Pa, look at this.” 

Yank handed Pa Purdy a bit of folded paper. He unfolded it and read, in letters cut from various newspapers and magazines: 

Be WAre tawKING bird!
Tawk only too U.S.
We will TEL how
Sav yor fArm 

Still not too happy about it, but it’s a shot better than what I started out with.

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