When I edit lots
My brain gets fried
And I forget things
Like (a) whether or not I had a coffee;
(b) What my name is;
(c) What the time is;
(d) Whether I stopped for that red light or not;
(e) What the name of this student in front of me is,
And (f) why I’m an author.
When I write,
My memory improves.
I remember point (f).
When the world is untainted,
All our ideals unspoiled,
Our dreams intact,
And the perfection of our experiences
Golden and crimson
In the colours of vivifying autumn:
God, keep us from being harsh
To those who have been hurt,
Who have failed so badly they feel
They cannot get up again.
God, give us imagination
Where we have no understanding.
God, give us compassion.
For there is nothing so horrible
As naivety paired with intolerance.
Naivety can be forgiven.
“You don’t look right.
You normally wear a skirt.”
This, accompanied by near hyperventilation.
“I haven’t seen you for
Like, fifteen years!”
This, after a ten week break from lessons with you.
“I’m going to quit singing lessons
Because I’m going to audition for the X-factor.”
And this makes sense how?
“I need a music stand.”
The child laboriously props her music up on the stand.
She then proceeds to stare at the music
You’re playing from, which is resting on the piano.
“I practised this song this week.”
But that song wasn’t part of his exam program –
And his exam is in five days.
It’s lunchtime, and you’re just wrapping up the lesson.
The bell rings.
The student decides it’s time for the lesson to end,
So she stands on the music stool and shrieks
“BELL!” in your ear,
Thereby lessening your lifespan by ten years.
An old and new kind of magic
Is the music of Rachmaninov,
A man of pain and purpose,
Who knew the grief of the heart,
And the power of the will.
I will listen and have my fill
Of chords of blood and sunlight,
Of anathemas in the night
Of the cries no one hears
Of the beauty, crystal cold,
Written in tears.
Here was a man who went to Hell
And was retrieved after three years.
Here was a man who –
Perhaps without a thought for God –
Was gifted by His Creator some of heaven’s
Greatest paeans and the prophets’ greatest laments.
Here was man who wrote from the depths of his soul
With dark, navy lines, profound and intense.
Sure, I would never write like a classic author – I don’t think I could to save myself. But publishers are not looking for books written like the old classics any more. Nevertheless, I love that retro stuff. It does wonders for my writing.
I never really struggle to say what I want any more. It’s not a struggle to write intense action scenes or difficult dialogues … or, it’s not as much of a struggle as it used to be. I find the words come to me faster, and I can arrange my thoughts quicker.
The old books often demonstrate mastery in areas like character and plot development – two large concepts that are not dealt with as justly today as they were in yesteryears. One only has to look at books like Fifty Shades of Grey to see that plot and character development are slipping in some of our best-sellers.
And writing shouldn’t be about selling. It should be about saying something well – communicating an idea worth thinking about. Many classics did this excellently. Do modern books do as well in this department? I’m not one hundred percent sure.
Writing a book
Is 3% inspiration
69% incorporating real people you don’t like
78% death by chocolate
104% misanthropic tendencies
114% imagining the most horrible deaths possible for your characters
131% writing about your love life or preferences in the opposite gender
193% death by coffee
201% lack of nutrition
243% obesity or atrophy
251% vitamin D deficiency
345% crying over unnecessarily cruel rejection slips
354% ridiculous determination
And 500% insane fun that no one else on the planet will understand.