Thursday, September 29, 2005

A Thought for the Day

Those of you who have taken a peek at the long list of links on my sidebar know that I enjoy reading literature, and I've written some myself, even though my training and background leans towards the formal side of social science research.

From time to time, I meet other bibliophiles and aspiring writers, many of whom think that the writing process mandates attendance at writing seminars, or at least an MFA.

The question I always think of is, "How did the great writers in the past write so well without the self-help groups, without endless books on the topic, without a graduate degree?"

See, when I was seeking funding for my dissertation research, I eschewed the "how to get your research grant" books (i.e., Sage publications), and focused instead on reading lots of research grants in my field, and others, and asking faculty members who had written successful grants for their recommendations. After I took all this information in, I wrote - I wrote a lot - multiple drafts of each grant.

Consequently, I was a Fulbright Fellow, and was awarded funding from the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and others.

So, I'm always a bit baffled by those who flock to the "after-market" for creative writers. No doubt, part of it is a social support system for what is admitedly a lonely and solitary craft, but it is also a very good way to: 1) part you from your valuable time and money; and 2) delay the inevitable, which is - writing! The British novelist Martin Amis once advised the worried-writer crowd with, "you simply must put the doubt and fear aside, and write."

I was thinking about this the other day while rereading a great book, "The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters" by Karl Iglesias (Avon, MA: Adams Media Corp.). A few choice passages in the section, "Point #15: Educating Yourself" echoed my thoughts.

Ron Bass

I came up to (a Stanford professor) after class one day and said, "I really want to write fiction What writing courses should I take?" He said, "Never, ever, ever take a writing course, never read a book about writing, never let anybody tell you how to write. Take literature courses, read, steal, turn everything to your interpretation. As soon as you take a writing course, it's the beginning of the end, because you establish someone else as the authority for how you can write, and it can't be. Writing is an art, it comes individually out of you. Only you can express your art your way, it's an expression of who you are. I can't tell you how to write, Fitzgerald couldn't tell you, Faulkner couldn't tell you."

Scott Rosenberg

It's very difficult to teach someone how to write characters and dialogue. I believe that with the best screenwriters, it's a God-given talent. What you can learn, however, is structure. And you don't even have to go to film school to learn. You can pretty much get that out of a couple books.

Robin Swicord

At the same time, I'm not sure anyone can teach you how to write. All writing is self-taught.

Lessons? Stop reading this blog and go back to writing - I am.


abivingston said...

"Stop reading this blog and go back to writing - I am."

Hmmm, just what I needed to get back to work, Merci

harvir said...
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Anonymous said...

after reading most of the books out their (during procrastination at least I waste time reading screenplay books)I think Rosenberg is right

lokokid said...
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