On Writing

There is a plethora of advice out there for writers who would like their work to be read by other people. When you get right down to it, it is way easier to read about writing, read other writers’ works, or take “writing courses” than it is to just sit down and write something original.

I stole the title of this piece from Stephen King, whose book On Writing is one of the best books I’ve read on the subject. Margaret Atwood and William Zinsser have also written advice-laden tomes which are well worth reading, but the suggestions in this tongue-and-cheek web essay by writer Chuck Wendig cut right to the chase:

25 Things

The piece received many comments from “aspiring writers”, but this rather exuberant paragraph from commenter and writer Dan O’Shea pleased me with its literate extravagance:

Forward, penmonkeys! Saddle up the work of your choice! Tease it with carrots! Spur or whip its flanks into bloody froth! Ride its ass into the ground and then carve its meat into finished stories before mounting the next beast and the next and the next. Go not gentle into that good night. Hell, don’t even go gentle into lunch.

I enjoy writing and I write nearly every day, but I don’t take the craft all that seriously. I seldom edit, aside from fixing obvious typos and other infelicities, preferring to start a new post rather than obsessing over the old ones.

Perhaps it is due to the nature of the blog medium. Old posts scroll off the bottom of the screen, accumulating into untidy piles of verbal humus in the nether regions of my mind. That humus is rich stuff and serves as a seedbed for new excursions, blog posts inspired by current experiences as well as remembrances of things past. The photographs I take offer additional stimulus.

I’ve been writing for this blog and its now-lost earlier incarnations for about eight years now. I’ve been rather careless about preserving my work; the posts from the period between early 2004 and early 2010 were lost to a series of hard drive failures as well as the theft of a computer during my dark days in Hannibal, Missouri. Now my work is saved on the remote servers of the far-flung WordPress company, which seems to be thriving. I’m not too disturbed about the loss of my old stuff; many of the posts were stories and I now regard them as mere practice pieces. I can tell those stories more effectively now after years of practice. Even those few readers who once read my old blog, Rural Rambles, probably have only the vaguest of memories of the stories I told way back in the day. Surely I can tell those stories again, and tell them better — after all, who will complain? A good story is a good story, after all.




Filed under Essays and Articles

3 responses to “On Writing

  1. Joan

    I see where you’re saying your writing’s more seasoned
    Than sagas you wrote in the past.
    I’m impressed that you don’t have to proofread your stuff
    Cause that really makes writing go fast.
    I have no objection to seeing your stories
    Rewritten, take on a new light.
    But it’s nearly a week and for us to partake
    Of your bounty, you really must write.

  2. ava

    Are you back in Hannibal? Doug thought he saw you near the wedge.

    • I doubt I will be in Hannibal anytime soon, Ava! It must have been someone else.

      I’ll be in Arizona for the next few weeks; after that, who knows? I certainly don’t!

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