Friday, December 27, 2013

Falling for the Myths & Tripping On Our Truths

        After seeing "The Book Thief," as a movie, it struck me that we sometimes live the myths more than our truths in attempting to write. In the movie, Liesl is taught to write through describing the outdoors to Max, as narrated by Death. We see the falling snow in the beginning, are with Liesel as she steals her first book and buries her brother, but don't experience all the pain, betrayal and heartbreak that made Markus Zusak's book a must read.

        Although movies allow us the illusion of immediacy, it's in writing, painting, creating animated features, and other forms of creation that we give birth to our truths. I have a friend who can write his life, but stops short of encouraging others to experience it by trumpeting that he got a gritty short story in a recent anthology.

        One of the books I'm working on tackles both my childhood and ovarian cancer, and it makes me cry. That won't guarantee that anyone else will share that gut-wrenching visceral experience. But without the emotion that underlies good writing on all levels, the words lose their meaning.

        Getting back to the myths, although this may be a repeat of past posts, we need to understand the mechanics to ensure we don't stand in the way of finding a way to explore in words what we cannot allow our brains to process.

  •  Myth: Only write what you know, can touch, see, or taste. 
  •  Truth: Everything we write comes from how we perceive reality. One person's golden sun is another person's skin cancer demon. Many of the great books also owe a great deal to imagination and research.

  •  Myth: Youth is an advantage.
  • Truth: Age means little to nothing in writing. What matters more is knowing your audience and understanding enough about your language to break the rules when necessary to express yourself. 

  •  Myth: A mentor is necessary to write effectively and publish.
  •  Truth: For most writers, teachers and others can serve as muses or dictators. The Internet is a cornucopia of tutorials, publishing alternatives (including the more visual mediums), and communities of writers and artists as support groups. My only advice is write first, ask questions later.
         As always, this blog is about possibilities. It's up to each writer to determine for her or himself which myths keep them from a full writing life and what truths could let the writing flow.

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