Today we begin a new feature, an occasional links posting aimed at sharing the most intriguing writing- and editing-related posts from the online world.
Let’s begin by visiting the Robust Writing blog, where Jesse has written a great post about developing stronger, more concise prose by reading road signs.
As he puts it:
“People who write road signs have very little space within which to get their message across; they don’t have the luxury (I would call it a hindrance) to jazz up their writing with fancy prose or unnecessary words. They have a very short space to write on and the fewer and larger the words on a road sign, the more likely drivers are to see the words and process the message it’s conveying.”
Bravo and amen. In the comments following the post, there’s also the excellent suggestion of trying to convey one’s message by writing a classified ad for it.
Next, some apt (and quite pointed) words from screenwriter and film producer Dale Launer about curing writer’s block.
Launer, who wrote the screenplay for “Ruthless People” and who wrote and produced or directed “Love Potion #9” and “My Cousin Vinny,” opines that writer’s block is a form of depression. He says that every artist has two roles at work in the creative process—a wild child who plays and a critical parent who judges—and much misery ensues when our parent side is overdeveloped.
He explains his theory further:
“When your critic is bigger than your artist…you try writing, then you read it, and beat yourself up. It isn’t pretty. Nor is it fun. In fact, it can be unbelievably miserable. And if that critic is loud enough and strong enough – you can beat yourself straight into clinical depression….
When you can’t write – it’s not because the well has gone dry – which is one of two great fears exacerbated and encouraged by the internal critic – that either you never had it, or you had it and it’s gone. If you have the right habits, the well never goes dry.”
His solution? It is, as advertised, simple. Shut the critical parent up for the time being and play, have fun, and deliberately take your work in the wildest direction you possibly can. Pushing, and breaking, self-imposed limits is crucial to overcoming the block. As he says, “Some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever written has been preceded by a voice that said ‘You’ve gone too far’ – only to reconsider it and leave it in. And to think it might have gotten nixed because some asshole deep inside me didn’t have the foresight to see a good thing when they were supposed to.”
Finally, the blog for the creative nonfiction magazine Brevity has had two posts recently discussing the topic of “imaginary nonfiction.”
First, there’s a short announcement of a bimonthly 300-word feature in the Bloomsbury Review focusing on imaginary nonfiction, that is work they define as dealing with “speculation, rumination” and other internal processes of the writer.
Soon after, another post discusses the translation of a story about the essayist’s encounter with ghosts after renting a house reputed to be haunted, as well as the possibility of an idea for a piece about daydreams falling in this “imaginary nonfiction” category.
The two posts together, as well as the comments linked to the second post, provide an intriguing lens on what how the field of creative non-fiction is evolving. For the fledgling nonfictionista, it might also be a fun springboard for generating story ideas.