Guest Post by Erica Dakin: Writing in its purest form is…?

Posted: May 10, 2013 in Writing Stuff
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Today, I’m happy to present a guest post by my fellow writer, Erica Dakin, who took time to write this post detailing her thoughts on writing as an art. As some of you may know, I wrote a call for guest posts earlier and Erica was the first to take me up on my offer.

In this post, she explains what she thinks about writing as a whole more eloquently than I could have. So, I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed reading it. 

When I first read Jian’s post about writing as an art form it actually surprised me a little, because I’ve never thought of writing as art. At least not in the sense of what I think of when someone mentions the word ‘art’, which is paintings and sculptures and stuff like that. However, if it’s a question of a technical craft or art, then I’m standing firmly on the side of art.

Why? Well, I have one main reason for that. It’s because if it were something technical, it would be something that can be learned, and I’m not convinced that writing can be learned. It can be honed, perfected, streamlined, but there has to be that innate spark, that talent, to make it shine. The best comparison I can come up with is a pianist. You can learn to play the piano, follow the instruction books, practice for hours and hours to get it right, but unless you have some innate musical talent, you will never make it to concert pianist, or you’ll never be a composer. It could be drive as well, the will to succeed and to constantly get better, but if you lack either the talent or the drive, you will never be more than a hobbyist.

If you compare that to writing books, then you can learn that by reading all the ‘how to’ manuals. You can read up on how to structure a story, how to build a believable plot, how to flesh out your characters, but I firmly believe that you need something extra if you want to lift your prose to something that doesn’t look like you’ve simply applied all the rules. You will never write a truly brilliant book by simply following all the rules and applying the correct formulas. There is a reason why there is a whiff of derision attached to the word ‘formulaic’.

My second reason for feeling this way is because if writing were a technical craft, I wouldn’t be a writer. Like Jian, I write from the gut. I don’t plot, I don’t outline, I don’t plan. I simply take an idea and see where it goes. It might stay in my head for weeks or months, where it ferments and grows and starts to take shape, but I don’t write down an idea as soon as I have it and then start writing an outline to go with it. I simply mull it over and over until I feel ready to put it down on paper, and once I do the idea takes off.

That’s not to say I’m not aware of the technical aspects of writing. I may not have read any books on the subject, but I have an amazing editor who also happens to be a good friend, and from her I have picked up some of the finer points on the matter which have made a huge impact on the quality of my writing. It’s just that the structured way of writing doesn’t work for me.

My third reason is that if writing were technical, it would be possible for it to be perfect, and there is no such thing as a perfect book. A book may be perfect to someone, but there will always be someone else who doesn’t like it or even hate it.

The only problem I have with the definition of writing as art is that it would make me an artist, and that just feels weird. I’m a writer, not an artist. I don’t sit in a brightly lit studio and wait for inspiration to hit, I sit at my computer desk in my little corner and bash on a keyboard. Every now and then I get disturbed by a cat or two, or I get the urge to make a cup of tea, or get distracted by a site like Cracked or Failbook, or I feel like slaughtering hordes of demons in Diablo, but I’ll always eventually return to what I’m writing. All that just doesn’t feel very artistic to me.

But then, I do have a drive, a compelling urge to write, and I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. It may sometimes go away for months on end, but it will always return, and once it does I have to write, because I’ll get irritable and edgy if I don’t. And then when I do, the words just keep coming. I have had weekends where I started typing as soon as I got home from work on Friday evening and didn’t stop (other than for the usual chores such as shopping and sustenance and stuff) until midnight on Sunday evening, by which point I’d be on a tally of around 22,000 words. I suppose that’s a pretty artsy thing to do.

Sometimes I also look at my own work and think ‘damn, did I write that? That’s pretty bloody amazing!’ Not often, but sometimes. And that’s the beauty of good prose. Sometimes it just hits you where it matters, and you can’t help but admire whoever put those words on paper. I usually get it with other writers, and sometimes they’re so good that they make me want to jack everything in and never write anything else ever, but thankfully those phases never last.

So yeah, I guess that writers really are artists, and if that makes me one too then I’ll have to grudgingly accept that tag. As long as people remember that I’m only a little bottom-feeder, one of those jobbing artists who does it on the side and has a long way to go before being able to live off my efforts.

And actually, I think the most compelling argument for writing as art is this: there have been many books that were so well-written and moving that they had me bawling like a baby. You’ll never convince me that that was because the writer followed all the right formulas; it will have been because the writer knew how to paint with words, and that takes instinct and talent, not the right manuals.

Well, first, I want to thank Erica for taking the time to talk about writing and for doing it as a guest post for my blog. Here’s the link to her blog where you can all Follow her: Theft and Sorcery

You can also follow her on Twitter, her username is: @TheftandSorcery

Finally, you can download her book over here on Amazon. Can’t believe I got a published writer to write a guest post for me, to be honest. But I managed to talk her into this.

Please remember to Like, Follow, and Comment. Hopefully, all three. And yeah. Thanks for reading.

~J.A. Romano

  1. tktrian says:

    Good post, Erica!

    First I must say, at least to me you are an artist even if you wouldn’t consider yourself one. You create something unique out of your imagination, just like a painter, musician, sculpturer, cartoonist…

    Yet as a teacher, I have to disagree with one aspect in your post. I refuse to believe humans have some innate talent that makes them artists or truly great at what they do. The key is motivation, the drive to want to do something, and the willingness to work hard. But perhaps we talk of the same thing with different names? I noticed you admit to this drive as well.

    Anybody can be a writer as long as they’re willing to write a lot and also read a lot, and if they learn to put themselves into another person’s shoes. It’s not enough to be able to tell a great story. It has to be dressed in words, and anyone can learn the, hm, art of words.

    Sure, some people are able to work their stories into an appealing form faster than others. The rest might have to work harder to achieve what another person’s brains are able to structure into a story with less effort. Brains work differently. But I tend to steer clear from the notion of ‘talent’ because it feels like a red stamp on the forehead that undermines the efforts a person has poured into their craft – whatever it is.

    Maybe talent doesn’t mean you’re already good, “meant to be it” whatever ‘it’ is. This just means that you find a certain craft or sport or whatever appealing to you, and that appeal, drive, motivation, that’s ‘talent’.

    All the best,

    P.s. Jian, if you’re still looking for guest posters, I know T will have a lot to say about writing as an artform… controversial stuff 😉

    • Erica Dakin says:

      I do believe in talent, but I admit that like you say it can just be a difference in the words used to describe the same thing. I used the pianist example because my dad is very musical and I have inherited this ‘talent’. (Not that I particularly do anything with it at the moment, but that’s another story.) My brother and sister, however, don’t have it. So where I spent a good number of my teenage years playing the piano and flute, my siblings have never touched an instrument. As you say, that could be lack of drive, whereas I would think of it as lack of talent – either way they’ve never been interested. It’s all very philosophical though! 😉

      • J.A. Romano says:

        I’m actually in the middle of the idea of talent and hard work. Personally, I think I started out with a bit of talent in writing, and then the rest was a lot of luck and hard work. I really like the pianist example, because I’ve been playing the piano for about four years. When I started, I never read the notes, but I could actually play it passably.

        Of course, I got better when I gained a drive for the piano, but yeah, I can understand your point there. My dad, in fact, is very talented when it comes to instruments, so I like to think my sister and I inherited a bit of our skill from him. We can’t sing to save our lives, though. xD

        Curious question – has anyone actually met a genius writer that didn’t even have to read a lot or practice his/her prose numerous times? I know they exist, but I wonder if anyone has encountered such a genius. There aren’t a lot of movies about genius writers, unlike the piano and even math. (Amadeus and A Beautiful Mind being prime examples.) So, I was just curious if anyone has actually encountered one. : )

  2. Erica Dakin says:

    Reblogged this on Theft and Sorcery and commented:
    I did a guest post for the lovely Jian, a fellow aspiring writer. Please go check out his blog, he’s got some very interesting stuff on there!

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