I’ll acquiesce and discuss more about writing because there are techniques I have learned — nothing proprietary — that work for me and which I share with others. Again, there are so many options available for communication but a writer still needs to be aware of what he or she is writing and why.
I don’t recall being taught to write, aside from the lessons in the primary grades. I do recall learning to read, outside of those same grades.
When I was a pre-teen, our mother (I had a younger brother and sister) was a stay-at-home mom. She would send us off to school in the morning, have lunch waiting for us when we came home at noon and then greet us in the afternoon when we returned. In the evenings, she would prepare supper while my father sat in the same living room chair and read the newspaper.
When supper was ready, Mom called us all and my sister, my brother and I would come from wherever, pass through the dining room, through the kitchen, into the back hall and then down the cellar stairs. At the foot of the stairs sat a black table, approximately three feet by four. On it were stack after stack after stack of comic books.
We three kids sorted through the piles searching for something we had not read recently. Then we traipsed back upstairs into the kitchen where we took our seats, read our selections and ate supper. Conversation was minimal.
There was always something to read when I was young. The morning, evening and Sunday newspaper. The Reader’s Digest. The Saturday Evening Post, and the comic books which we traded with neighborhood kids when our copies grew stale.
And there was Sherlock Holmes. To this day, I don’t eat fruit cake, that brick of candies and other confections representative of Christmas. I recall one season where I spent many evenings at my parent’s kitchen table reading all of Sherlock Holmes while drinking tea and eating fruitcake. I still like tea and Sherlock Holmes. Fruitcake aside, I always read.
Here is what this has to do with writing. When you read, you are taking part in a series of processes. Yes, you read a page, then turn to the next page and read. That’s a process. As you read, you are following a process set down by the author. Maybe it’s a recipe for fruitcake. Maybe it’s the flight of Apollo 13. Maybe it’s “A Study in Scarlet.”
And then there can be a third process layered in with the others. Here is what I mean.
Ernest Hemingway writes “Hills Like White Elephants.” In it are the two processes I describe above. And there are a couple more. It’s a short story. It’s fiction. But it could be real. Aside from the opening metaphor, Hemingway is nowhere to be seen or heard in the story. It’s an objective point of view. Not even an adverb from the author.
The man and the woman are waiting for a train, but it soon becomes evident that there is another process taking place and it involves their relationship. And the story reaches a climax when the woman says, ‘Would you please please please please please please please stop talking?’”
At that point, the reader has what James Joyce called an epiphany. Unfortunately, I suggest that the man in the story does not. Because, “He did not say anything but looked at the bags against the wall of the station. There were labels on them from all the hotels where they had spent nights.” Hemingway has just allowed the reader a peek into a relationship that may be doomed but is at least in the process of changing.
What’s this have to do with writing? The first time I ever wrote something for money was a five-minute video script on career planning. I knew a little about career planning (see my previous post) and nothing about video scripts aside from a few samples the production company lent me. But I did know about processes. I had read comic books and magazines and newspapers and some Hemingway.
That’s what it has to do with writing. Next post is more about writing teams.
Where did you develop writing skills?