Monday, October 19, 2015

The Soul of Creative Writing by Richard Goodman

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I discovered Richard Goodman when I read his Introduction “In Search of the Exact Word” in the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus (post dated 6/9/14). It’s a tribute to Flaubert for penning the phrase le mot juste, i.e., the exact word. According to Flaubert, “All talent for writing consists after all of nothing more than choosing words. It’s precision that gives writing power.”

Wanting to read more of Goodman’s work, I tracked down The Soul of Creative Writing which includes his complete essay “In Search of the Exact Word” as well as four other essays in Part 1: Words “The Music of Prose”, “The Secret Strength of Words”, “Some Things English Can’t Do—and Shouldn’t”, and “The Nerve of Poetry”. Part 2: Writing consists of four essays and a list of maxims: “Using the Techniques of Fiction to Make Your Creative Nonfiction Even More Creative”, “Finding a Great Title”, The Eminent Domain of Punctuation”, “It’s About Nothing: Finding Subjects for Creative Writing in Everyday Life”, and “Maxims about Writing”.

I do not have space to share every paragraph and passage that inspired me, but here are some highlights:

In the end, the creation of original music in prose—or style, if you will—is that mysterious combination of everything you’ve learned, read and practiced with who you are. It’s unique, like your handwriting or fingerprint, though achieved with blood, sweat, and tears. But worth it. Because, in the end, as Flaubert said, “One must sing with one’s own voice.”  (page 16)

…The thing is, though, there are many pains in writing, but one of its most narcotic joys is putting down a word you believe does the job extraordinarily well. It’s just right. It’s juste. When you see it there, on the page, grinning out at you in all its handsome self, you know it’s been worth the effort. And when you return to it, it will still be just as handsome.  (page 22)

…in Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon word for sea is “whale road,” hronrade. As a poet, as a writer, of course this would excite him [Borges]. What a metaphor! It turns things on their heels. The sea does not belong to we humans, but is—and here we name it—a highway for enormous swimming mammals. The implication is that here we have peoples, who despite their lack of mercy, were capable of outright awe, of perspective, of knowing their place in the world. Though often murderous, they understood the sea was a place where boats were, at best, uninvited guests.  (page 33)

By thinking of those people who created bits of sound that could be repeated to others reliably, we link ourselves to the tidal struggle of what it means to be human. We link ourselves to the effort of trying to make sense and order of an often perplexing world in which we live. To imagine this is to feel a responsibility. I think that, as with the seeds of plants and trees, we are the stewards of words.  (page 34)

But the most important thing to observe here is that Robert Finch is absolutely unafraid to write about something as “insignificant” as a hornet. In fact, he’s confident that it’s significant enough to warrant writing about. Why? Because he trusts his own predilections and lets them go where they will lead him. And here we turn to Emerson, one of our great wise men, to give this idea some big-name clout. In his famous essay, “Self-Reliance,” Emerson writes, “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.”  (page 100)

If you have a thought, an idea, a change, don’t ever delay putting it down—not even for three seconds. It will escape forever. No amount of pleading, prayer, or cursing will bring it back. A small part of your mind will be like the Flying Dutchman, searching fruitlessly for the lost thought for all eternity.  (page 108)

Write some of whatever you’re writing in longhand. Sculpt the words with your ink or lead. Experience the connection between your mind and your pen or pencil. You are an artificer as well as an artist.  (page 109)

No comments:

Post a Comment