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Finding the writer within

Saturday, 2 August 2014

I used to think that writers were two exotic beasts joined together by a furrowed brow -- the person that writes and the person that edits. The taxonomy has changed. Upon closer examination I recognised a third diablo poking out between the bones of the writer, clinging to the person and their reality and claiming to be an independent personality, the writer’s real self and willing to sell their souls for the quick hit on the oxygen of publicity and sales.

Writers are, of course, like children, always shouting look at me, look at me, I’m brilliant. You’re not looking. If you’re not going to look at me I’ll do something really stupid and you won’t like it. We rely on readers to make us complete. In The Things We Used To Say  Natalia Ginzburg’s brother had a friend Cafi whom he would let read his writing and vice versa. No one else would understand the profundity of their words and there was little point trying. It was enough for them that the circuit between writer and reader had been completed. Most writers I know are shameless tarts they’ll let anybody read their writing and they don’t really care if they pay or not.  Despite all her hundreds of millions of pounds J.K.Rowling still writes, but under a pseudonym. There was a rumour that she was flaunting herself on ABCtales, but because she did not get a coveted cherry flounced away. Money can’t buy everything. I made an editorial choice never to give J.K.Rowling a cherry.

As an editor of my own work I always give myself a cherry. I’m word blind. I can’t see the inconsistencies, the banal, the cliched. The growing power over words makes the writer omnipotent and he alters the outer self to the inner self. I grew up in a world of words. Instead of the Tourette-tic of a mate answering the moan of a phone or IPod tablet while you are talking to them people used to pull out a copy of Lily Poole and read a few paragraphs while you were boring the pants off them. ‘Boring the pants off them’ is cliched. Psychologists measure how long it takes a reader to process information in tenth of a thousand of seconds and cliches takes less time. Saccades when the eye focuses on a word or group of words is usually an indication that at unconscious level there is something ambiguous in the written word. The best way to check this is to read your work aloud.  That way your are engaging the visual field and complementing it with the aural. I pay lip service to that idea. Get somebody else to read your work. They are blind in ways that you are not. But remember meaning can change. A Jimmy Did It For Me badge has not the same meaning as it did four years ago.

Writers are invisible and good writers tell you things you already think you know. I’ve already touched on this conundrum of when to make the invisible visible  using the Brad Pitt index http://www.abctales.com/blog/celticman/brad-pitt-index. To sell a book you’ve increasingly got to sell your own story of who you are and how you’ve got here. The stories we tell ourselves are the most powerful forces on earth. Pledge to Lily Poole and read between the lines. Go further even and read the lines. Just stay off that damn phone.

 

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Comments

Peter Hitchen
Peter Hitchen says:

We live in a world dominated by the need for instant gratification, Tweets nice and short - move on. Check the FB page, status unchanged so friend someone - move on and so it continues. Reading demands patience and a little effort - commodities in short supply so to create that patience and effort the writer has to pander to the general need for instant gratification. It's a bit like being a Christian all week apart from Wednesday when you can dabble in a spot of Satanism. The need to spread the word quick and make it stick is important if people are to be persuaded to offer their patience and effort to read. After all their time is precious - just think about all the other important things that they could be doing...

August 02, 2014

Ewan Lawrie
Ewan Lawrie says:

All true, especially Peter's Christianity all week with a bit of Satanism to break it up. Yes, it's odd and it has of course become odder. I think writers might have been more content in the Pre-Digital Age. When we didn't have any fingers! No, you know what I mean.

August 02, 2014

Jack O'Donnell
Jack O'Donnell says:

writing like Satanism is a bad idea, but what the hell? Nothing much else happens on a Tuesday. The selling yourself sucks the soul out of you.

August 02, 2014

Moya Rooke
Moya Rooke says:

So this is where you all are. Now can we please be clear about what day is set aside for Satanism? Tuesday or Wednesday? I've got my diary handy and at the moment I have a nine o'clock window on Wednesday for an hour then I'm off to the Women's Institute as I have great expectations for my green chutney this month but if it goes on for longer than an hour then I can do all day Tuesday.

August 04, 2014

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