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A Couple Things About Writing
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I don't often give out writing advice. I don't consider myself qualified for one thing. Besides, I'm not sure writing advice is all that useful. In the aggregate probably. Out of the thousands of writing tips I've read, a few have proven valuable to me. But the chance that a particular piece of advice -- something that works for me (or that I flatter myself works for me) -- will work for you is minute. Writing is a personal thing. We each approach the task in our own way.

It occurred to me tonight, though, as I struggled with revisions on sevenfer, that, advice aside, there are two things I believe to be true. Neophytes tend to place too little emphasis on technique and more experienced writers too much.

Many beginning writers bristle if it is suggested to them that there are any "rules" they should follow. The idea of making any concessions in their art -- in their visions, their ideas -- to anyone, even to potential readers, is offensive, a fraud, a sell-out. Yet we do need to find some common ground with each other in order to communicate. What goes on in our own heads is probably not understandable in its raw form to anyone else.

On the other hand, writers who persist and achieve some success seem to get caught up in technique. I believe it was Picasso who once said that when artists get together they talk about turpentine. No doubt, technique is something that can be discussed more easily than ideas, whose origins are elusive and whose outlines are hazy and confused until rendered clear by means of technique. But reading endless talk about technique gives the erroneous impression that it is more important than the ideas it is applied to.

What conclusion I might draw from this overly broad generalization? I can't say. But writing it took me away from the revision. Which has been a relief because tonight I don't seem to have any good ideas or any ability to coherently express the lousy ideas I do have.

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