December 5, 2015
I admit it, I’ve been lurking around the internet and reading other blogs.
Writers’ blogs, to be exact.
No, all blogs are not writing blogs, some are commercial enterprises with enough writing to lure you in to buy products and earn the blogger $$.
We’re talking blogs by people who write everyday, probably want to publish a wildly popular book series, multiple volumes of poetry, a great American novel or at the very least a book that sells well on Amazon.
Writers who are serious about their craft. But I’m digging around and I can’t help but compare my writing to the words that others put out there for all the world to see. Human nature being what it is, we hold ourselves up to other people’s mirrors to see what we look like. It’s not logical but we do it anyway.
You see, I am insecure about my writing. I’m a storyteller and a rhymer. I am not, however “a great American writer” and I don’t think I ever will be. Truthfully, I am not a writer who manages to adroitly twist everyday words and concepts and story ideas into something fresh and new and amazing.
John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger, Ernest Hemingway and Pearl S. Buck come to mind when I think of great American writers. Stephen King is probably not in that category by those in academia and publishing (and those rarified critics who “decide” who is great and who is not.)
While I can’t read Stephen King anymore because I’m just not into being scared witless, I think he’s a great writer for one specific reason: he can take you there.
His words paint such vivid pictures that your skin crawls and you find yourself looking over your shoulder at every strange noise.
He brings all our childhood boogeymen and monsters into our adult imaginations… and makes them even scarier than they were when we were children.
Yet many would not consider him great anymore then they would deign to read the (probably hundreds by now) writings of Danielle Steel. But I’ve enjoyed the few books I’ve read by her because her stories warm my heart.
I think for the high-brow crowd, popular does not equal great. But if millions are touched then is it not great writing? A good story that touches lives and hearts…isn’t that what a good story is supposed to do?
I write simply by sitting down and letting my brain and fingers have their way with me. When writing books I don’t do outlines, I don’t know the “rules” and my posts are way too long when I blog. I’ve taken English courses in school, and again in college, and I cannot tell you what on earth a dangling participle is…or just about any other “proper” term for writing.
I’ve got nouns, adjectives, and verbs down pretty well but personal pronouns and interjections and other such concepts usually confuse me. I actually just stopped and googled it…they’re called “parts of speech.” I didn’t even remember that!
I wrote a 400 page book in a month, and a successful, published author read it, critiqued it and told me it was good (but she thought it needed more dialogue). I was happy but I’ve yet to make any real attempts to publish it. You see, there are two sequels that started coming through at the same time in 2011; I got overwhelmed and shoved all of them away. Then I got in a car wreck and I haven’t written much since. Reading an old friend’s writings got me fired up again and the flood has begun.
I’ve decided to say it this way: the writing beast has escaped from the basement and is running wild and loose again. When I get going, words just burst out of me (like a dam breaking to use a metaphor) and somewhere in the flood, I have to try to sleep and stay balanced. I don’t get “writer’s block” per se…and I think it’s because I don’t plan what to write via outlines.
I just let the writing and words flow out of me and then read what I write; if it makes sense, I go with it. If it doesn’t, I edit it until it does (and I can stay stuck in the editing process until I want to tear my hair out.) Some people tell me I’m a good writer and of course, I love hearing that. The bad writer reviews will surely come if I ever try to publish. Eeek.
So back to my reading other writers’ blogs recently. I’ve run up against something that makes me tilt my head, and then tilt it back the other way (picture a confused puppy.) This head tilting is caused by writing so tortured, twisted and filled with metaphors that I simply cannot decipher what the writer is trying to say! What’s more confusing for me is that I suspect this is the type of writing that wins awards. I see pithy comments on those posts such as: “beautiful” and “deep” and “wow.”
Now I’m going to sound mean-spirited here but I imagine some of those comments are from other bloggers who also write (and want other writers to follow them.) You know, the types who collect blog followers and social media friends like ‘people charms’ on a popularity charm bracelet…without really giving a darn who they are.
Yep, mean-spirited but I suspect it’s true for a lot of people who want to be famous. Any means, right? Any publicity is good and all that. And make no mistake, I’ve read some amazing writing on WordPress blogs (which occasionally causes my insecurity beast to crawl into the same basement my writing beast escapes from.)
Back to metaphors. If someone puts too many metaphors into a short piece then the writing begins to cloud for me; I can’t see the message through the meta-forest, so to speak (I agree…bad pun.)
If I have to read something three or four times, and still don’t get the gist of the writing, then I suspect maybe it’s not good writing.
Isn’t the purpose of writing to convey thoughts and emotions? If a reader can’t understand what you’re trying to say then isn’t that a failure for the writer?
And I’m not talking deep philosophers here…a breed unto themselves…I’m talking about the average person trying to convey how they feel about their lover who just dumped them, or their angst over something that has shaken their faith in humanity. You know, common, everyday subjects.
I asked the old friend (who fired me up again about writing) and he tried to explain that tortured writing appeals to tortured souls; that perhaps what makes absolutely no sense to me is because I’m not suffering from a high degree of emotional torment. But if someone is an emotional wreck, that writing might reach them on some level.
I see his point but I disagree; I’m fairly sure what I’m desperately trying to comprehend is just plain ol’ crappy writing. However, I don’t admit that to him because he’s self-published a book of poetry, has been paid to write articles and has worked it as his craft for many years.
Oh, and he’s a tortured soul.
I wrote a poem for him called “No Miracles for the Madman” which is a composite of words he uses; how he speaks about his life, God and his mental and spiritual agony. No one has ever hit the “like” button on the poem…I think peeking into his mind is rather disturbing for most people.)
So back to my original question…if the metaphors are so thick that I can’t see the forest through the word trees…am I dense, unsophisticated, or is it simply lousy writing?
Food for thought.