Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In the beginning, there was the word



People think writing is a physically passive pursuit. Not true. A writer is similar to a sculptor in that a certain amount of physical enthusiasm helps, elbow grease at the start. I know writers who write standing up, for example; personally, I attack the keyboard like the frustrated pianist I am.

But unlike sculptors who get to bang away at stone or something equally impersonal, writers start with nothing. We have to build something first, then destroy it, showing no mercy. Out with the was's and the is's and, painfully, even that really elegant but uninvited and totally irrelevant phrase.

The hardest thing about writing? Knowing that whatever words you put down at first will not be there at last.

Which is why I use a lot of them to begin with -- toss them about with utter abandon, bring every possible word I can think of to the party. Orgy! Orgy! Later, it's my job to hate what we've done. That's called editing. Or shame. Sometimes both.

I try to tell the words it's nothing personal, just business. "Thank you all for coming and suiting up. Atavism -- love the shoes. Unfortunately, most of you didn't make the cut, but please try again. Because and It, you made the team; the rest of you are free to go."

Sometimes you chip away at your monster and end up with something pleasing. Other times, you chip, chip, chip and end up with nothing. You just don't know how things will turn out -- you might turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, or that sow's ear might be a sow's ear after all.

In which case, you try again. I meant to write about Frognerparken. I'll try again.

31 comments:

  1. Writing is hard work.

    (Writing "Writing is hard work" was hard work.)

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  2. I had hoped to read about Frognerparken. I'll hope again.

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  3. so I Googled Frognerparken. The first listing was all in Norvegian. I should have known. then I went to images and Oooh! wonderful. Here are two:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=frognerparken&client=firefox-a&hs=Wqe&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=fflb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=mHNyU9LvKpbfoATVpYCoBw&ved=0CEYQsAQ&biw=1086&bih=920#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=RQM9DN7tcdHWMM%253A%3BNTmtix59ksgVBM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.arrangement.oslo.kommune.no%252Fgetfile.php%252FArrangement%252520%28AGM%29%252FInternett%252520%28AGM%29%252FBilder%252FParker%252FFrognerparken%252520sommer_FotoTO.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.arrangement.oslo.kommune.no%252Farealer_som_forvaltes_av_bymiljoetaten%252Ffrognerparken%252F%3B3008%3B2000

    https://www.google.com/search?q=frognerparken&client=firefox-a&hs=Wqe&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=fflb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=mHNyU9LvKpbfoATVpYCoBw&ved=0CEYQsAQ&biw=1086&bih=920#facrc=_&imgdii=RQM9DN7tcdHWMM%3A%3BxnlkUvvtKgdywM%3BRQM9DN7tcdHWMM%3A&imgrc=RQM9DN7tcdHWMM%253A%3BNTmtix59ksgVBM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.arrangement.oslo.kommune.no%252Fgetfile.php%252FArrangement%252520%28AGM%29%252FInternett%252520%28AGM%29%252FBilder%252FParker%252FFrognerparken%252520sommer_FotoTO.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.arrangement.oslo.kommune.no%252Farealer_som_forvaltes_av_bymiljoetaten%252Ffrognerparken%252F%3B3008%3B2000

    Very large addresses, those, but if you go there I want to know which one is the real AltadenaHiker?

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  4. Writing is ongoing... My husband use to always rewrite over and over...A writer learns a lot about themselves thru the process...

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  5. As Doris asked, which one is the real Altadena Hiker?

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  6. I do have a story about Frognerparken. It's not what you think -- double your money back if I'm wrong about that.

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  7. Saw the Vigeland installation there around 1978 or '79. Happily, an hour afterward at the Viking ship museum cleared my head.

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  8. Damn it, man, try to resuscitate Prurient. I think he's still breathing.

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  9. Frognerparken. Vee all vont tu know about it! Ya!

    I've always appreciated your hard verk.

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  10. Frognerparken, oh my. Seeing those sculptures has left me wordless. Maybe that's what happened to you? Try again.

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  11. Prurient is still itching if not twitching at least. Surely you don't mean to kill the dear little things, maybe just get them out of the house to reduce the chaos of the moment? It seems that maybe you do like order after all in your own inimitable way.

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  12. I like the photo, thought it might be the young Churchill.

    I've gotten a little bit more accepting of the notion everybody loves--it's about enjoying the journey. And Frost's "No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader." But sugar coat it how you will, the work and irritation you speak of are very real.

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  13. When I was very young I aspired to write like Hemingway with few or no adjectives. But when I took a creative writing course as a teenager I realized "It was a dark and stormy night" would simply be "It was a night." Not much substance there.

    My cross to bear: I'm a perfectionist. The work is never quite right. Paragraphs are moved, sentences are restructured. Recently I practiced flash fiction for the first time while eating lunch in a local coffee shop with only my laptop as company and customers' actions and reactions as inspiration. Now there's a discipline.

    I am putting my perfectionism on the shelf for this comment. The rambling you see is the rambling you get, kiddo.

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  14. I totally get this. (Wordy.) Got it. (Better.)

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  15. hmmm

    Problematic metaphor. Obviously you haven't created public art by committee. You build it and they destroy it - unmercilessly - which according to the Oxford dictionary is "is a malapropism and nonword on the order of uncategorically."

    hmmm

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  16. Which one, PA -- I metaphored as though there were no tomorrow.

    Sonia and Ann, are you fans of the defunct bad Hemingway contest? "She is truly one of magnificent spirit, thought Ricardo, as the American woman called Louise broke a bottle of Campari over his head."

    Pierre, sank you wery much. And Doris, a good order is hard to find.

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  17. You know, maybe I'll just sit out today's 100 degrees reading all the winners: "Frances’ comb was an old comb and he used it alone. He had not combed his hair for eighty-four days and to hunt for hair was getting harder all the time. When he had been younger, in the days before he got older, the hair had been as plentiful as the fish in the Gulf Stream. The comb used to be just a small part of his fine arsenal of hair care products. Before the comb had proved its solitary worth he had used it in tandem with the sleek Remington small-caliber blow dryer and a fine vent brush made by the Italians that practically forced the hair into submission. If you were lucky enough to have had strong hair and a powerful arsenal of truly excellent hair care products, you used them all and even took them with you for the aficionado of grooming knows that hair care is a moveable feast, and if you were lucky enough to have had brave hair as a young man, then it stayed with you forever. Sometimes."

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  18. My problem is knowing when to quit - I could edit until there is no tomorrow. The first year I taught 8th grade language arts I was in grad school and shared with students the comments on my assignments, and the amount of red ink stunned them because I was the teacher! and I should know everything! That was some of the best teaching I did that year. So yeah, edit edit edit start over. I know that process well.

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  19. "A good order is.....Ah, yes, like so much else in life. I have these thoughts at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Even when it is no longer 4 o'clock in the afternoon, even though the earth has not moved.

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  20. I may know a lot of words...but I sure can't put them together like you!!!

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  21. Love the bad Hemingway! I started listening to A Farewell to Arms recently and couldn't stomach it. Too terse, never got me involved. All these comments cheer me up. I was never trained to write, so when I was made a writer at Caltech, I panicked, worked at my words for weeks, rewrote hundreds of times, and all the time I thought it was just due to my incompetence. My colleagues seemed to write stylishly and quickly.

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  22. God, Karin, that Hemingway comment is right on, superb, amazing, adjective adjective adjective!

    I know, I should only say "adjective" once.

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  23. Don't let them fool you, Bellis. Hemingway (the real one) said, "The first draft of anything is shit."

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  24. I agree with your take on the pursuit of the pen.

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  25. Oh, the wonderful things I wrote in my head while stuck in traffic on the 405 . . . and went the words between there and the office.

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  26. This is a magnificent .... uh oh...I'm stuck on the next word. Damn! I wanted it to be, well, magnificent, however now I just feel the pressure to perform. Ah...upon review, I see a little editing is all it requires..."This is magnificent." *smile*

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  27. That was really good and so true.

    Heck, sometimes words don't even have a life span longer then the end of the sentence. I'm SO bad at self editing, that I sometimes try to do it on the fly. I can tell you great certainty, this is not an effective way to write. Never a good idea to ruin a thought, before you even finish getting getting it down on paper.

    By the way, I like your new profile pic.

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  28. chip away at the monster. Exactly.

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