Making The Particular Illuminate The Universal

After over a week since I finished the experience and along with a few other things I’ve been reading (, If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland, and A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young), I can really start to see how Camp NANOWRIMO affected my writing.  It really did two things one immediate with real physical effects on how I write and the other with why and what I write.

The first thing it taught was to leave out the preciousness and quit worrying whether every word was perfect when you are writing a first draft.  The preciousness is trying to write in a learned way to show how smart you are and how many big words you know.  It has nothing to do with actually getting to the truth of the sentence (more on his later).  The second part of that is to just let it flow, especially in the first draft. For me the first draft is the time to get ideas and the skeleton of the work on paper. Just let it fly.  More often than not, the ideas you are trying to express are the correct ones.  When you go back for the editing and rewriting, that is where you make it sing.

The second thing the camp, along with the things I’ve been reading about art and writing, taught me is the only thing that matters in art and fiction is telling the truth.  This idea was something that began forming in my mind when I started trying to blog more consistently and more often.

There were two things that started me down the idea that truth is the most important thing in art. (I might not mean truth the way you think I do.  More on that later.) The first is a quote from Ernest Hemingway that I can’t find right off, but if memory serves he said something like, whenever he got stuck in something he was writing he would try to write the truest sentence possible.  The other thing is from Andrew Sullivan who wrote about a blogger’s job is to be truthful about everything including himself.

Sullivan’s quote is more about always being forthright and sincere in what you believe and in what you write.  Hemingway’s idea is a little trickier.  It doesn’t just mean factual truth, but it means the emotional and fictional truth of your characters.  Of course, those characters are a part of you and you are a part of them.  No matter how much you may base a character on another person, you are writing that character therefore part of you is in that character.  So, you are in a way trying to express some sort of personal truth.

What I am trying to say (and failing miserably at) is the writer’s goal is to not hide behind the artifice of fancy words and clichés.  The writer’s goal is to tell the truth about his characters, their world, his world, and himself in as straightforward yet artful manner as possible.  The artist’s job is to use the truth of the particular to illuminate the truth of the universal.


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