Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What writing is

My Uncle Vinton was one of the most influential persons in my teenage years. He taught me to play guitar and drink whiskey without shuddering. He was a strange fellow- he once typed his own copy of Huckleberry Finn on a manual typewriter, copying from the original book. What made this strange was he actually had the book- why type a copy? Among his many obscure talents he was a guitar player, a sketch artist, and a woodcarver.

My grandfather had cut down a rogue cedar tree and Vinton claimed the trunk for his own. He cut it up into small chunks which he carved into pieces for a chess set. The carvings were very intricate- the bishop was a demon with wings, and I remember the detail of the face was such that you could see the eyebrows and the lines on the face of this small figure barely four inches tall. It was crouched down on one knee with its chin resting on one fist like the thinker, and the wings wrapped around its shoulders. I marveled at the detail and asked him "how can you carve this out of a chunk of wood?". He answered with the age old advice of " you just cut away everything that doesn't look like the bishop." Easy enough to say if you have the talent.

I have tried to apply the same principle to my writing,  I have tried to write stories that cut away everything that I am not trying to convey. I have tried, through each story written, to capture human nature in such away that no one who reads the story will doubt its validity. Granted, quality of writing will always be subjective, but some writers have achieved talent which can not collectively be denied. This, then, has been my goal: to write a story that may not be accepted by everyone who reads it as good writing, but accepted by a majority of people as such. To cut away everything that is doesn't look like the bishop.

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