July 15th, 2008

A Birthday

Andromeda

Now Time's Andromeda on this rock rude,
With not her either beauty's equal or
Her injury's, looks off by both horns of shore,
Her flower, her piece of being, doomed dragon's food.
   Time past she has been attempted and pursued
By many blows and banes; but now hears roar
A wilder beast from West than all were, more
Rife in her wrongs, more lawless, and more lewd.

   Her Perseus linger and leave her to her extremes?--
Pillowy air he treads a time and hangs
His thoughts on her, forsaken that she seems,
   All while her patience, morselled into pangs,
Mounts; then to alight disarming, no one dreams,
With Gorgon's gear and barebill, thongs and fangs

Gerard Manley Hopkins

A Birthday

On Bleeding Into the Inkwell

Sometimes writers hand out advice to write stuff you feel passionately.  Stuff that matters a lot to you.  Stuff that you have dreamed about.  Stuff that is personal to you.

My advice is to be very, very, very wary when doing so.  Feeling passionately about something will not necessarily make good art, because it is not, in itself, art.

You can not sit down, open a vein, and put your pen in your blood to write.  You have to bleed into the inkwell, add the extra ingredients, and alchemically transform your blood into ink before it is ready to write with.

This is because you must be able to view your dream dispassionately.  See if it works.  If any part does not fit the story, it must be ruthlessly expunged, no matter how passionately you adore it.  You must be able to recognize the difference between cheap shots and an integral part of the work, and the more passionately you feel the resentment you are working off, the harder it will be.  You must be fair to the bad guys, based on people or holding views you naturally detest, and justify to the readers the good guys, whom you think intrinsically sympathetic because they support the views you find intrinsically appealing.

You must turn your passion into art before it will be any good at all.