Tuesday, January 16, 2007

When Method Meets Craft

'Novices sometimes imagine writing as dark magic, something known only to some mystical inner circle. They pick up a professional's finished work, marvel at its seamless perfection, and think, I could never do that. Nonsense. Take if from someone who's been scouting around inside the mystic circle for decades. I work shoulder to shoulder with some of the best writers on the planet, and never once have we danced around a cauldron. Some hocus-pocus might help, but we don't know any. So we just get down to work. Great writing happens not through some dark art, but when method meets craft. The secret--if there is one--is to take one manageable step at a time. Superman may leap tall buildings in a single bound, but the best writers I know sit down at their keyboards and write one line. And then another. And another.'
--from Oregonian writing coach Jack Hart's book, A Writer's Coach--An Editor's Guide to Words That Work.

4 Comments:

At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Oddjobs said...

"...write one line. plagarize one. write another. then plagarize another. Pretty soon you have a book..."

--from Harvard writing coach Kaavya Viswanathan's book, "How Opal Mehta Got A Book Published Without Knowing Anything About Writing"

Personnally, i think the world has too many "writers"...

 
At 12:01 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That made me laugh. And of course I agree about the oversupply of writers. I would favor a policy under which 95% of them are forced to find some other line of work-- myself not included, naturally--which will have an instant beneficial effect on my income and range of opportunities. We need millions more readers. That's the ticket.

There is a more serious point in that joking about plagiarism, though, and it's this: every writer plagiarizes those who came before them in some way. You don't really learn to write from school or even outside classes, not from writing coaches or mentors or even good editors. We really learn to write mostly by years of reading other good writers. So to that extent, a more generalized form of plagiarism is built into the process.

 
At 3:32 PM, Anonymous oddjobs said...

may be a fine line, but theres a difference btween willful/deliberate lifting and inadervtant channeling or even premediated emulatione. latter comes from takaing it all in over time. wouldnt call that plagarising......

 
At 3:36 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You're right, of course. And while there are inevitably some exquisitely fine lines, like you say, there are also plenty of simple, outrageous examples of theft.

 

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