Saturday, December 1, 2012

Right brain writing (Part 2)

Seeing the world in clichés and symbols is not a conscious process. Our education and social environment has trained our brain to edit out any data considered superfluous. This is true both in writing and in drawing. Unfortunately, what is required in good writing -- and drawing -- is to go beyond those cliché and the symbols; to describe things as they are actually seen (that word again), perceived and felt.

No writing can be entirely Right Brained. The left side still plays the dominant role in the planning and structure. But, it is the right side that's in charge when the characters start acting as if they have a mind of their own, and the story goes places one never intends. The trick is to be able to switch to your Right Brain mode effortlessly. In this mode, time will stand still. You will not be aware of your surroundings. People may talk to you but you won’t hear them. You will hardly have time to breath, let alone eat. You will be so consumed that you will be in another world. A crude way of putting it would be ‘concentration’, but when you enter it you will know that it is far more serious than that. You’ll be zoned out.

Writing is supremely liberating and rewarding, but it is also very solitary. The irony of writing is that while your writing is ultimately for an audience out there, the journey is lonely. Like an Olympic athlete, you will find yourself declining invitations to all-night yadda-yadda and three-hour mamak teh tarik. Your friends will find you strange. Wah, some people so sombong these days. Play along with a sense of humour. Give excuses.

Unfortunately, our society is such that if you tell your friends that you want to stay home to shampoo your cat, they’ll think you’re crazy, but will understand. But, if you tell them that you want to stay home and write, they'll think you’re pretentious, or stark raving mad. Write what? A report? What, you want to become writer? Can make money, ah? Some people action, man! No time for us.  Or it will be, Show me, show me. Show me what you are writing. Are you writing about me? Don’t you dare write about me.

In either case, the result will be unsettling. The writer-ego is very fragile. Once hurt, it may never recover. So, don’t tell your friends about your writing, unless it is someone very close who understands what it is to write, on whom you can depend, and whose literary judgement you respect. Otherwise, lie. Don’t tell them about your writing; and don’t go on reading circuits either, until you have finished your work. One would observe (and this is by no means scientific):

1.    Many ‘writers’ on book reading circuits don't even have a book, and probably never will. Many are glamour junkies who enjoy the idea of being writers more that writing per se. It's like being famous for being famous
2.    Writers who talk about their novel in progress, somehow don’t seem to complete it. I have heard of novels that have been in progress for more than twenty years. Many, too, are unable to finish the novel because they have painted themselves into a corner by building up such high expectations.

Things to remember:

1.    Writing is about practice, refinement and technique, until they become automatic.
2.    Writing is the ability to express what you see out there, not only in words but also in feelings. Words should fulfil the criteria “necessary and sufficient”.
3.    Writing is not an entirely R-brain activity. The L-brain will need to come in at some stage to clean up some mess.
4.    R-brain activity will include:

•    sense of close connection with the work
•    sense of timelessness
•    sense of confidence
•    lack of anxiety
•    sense of close attention
5.    Say it as it is, and not what you think it should be -- no clichés and personal prejudice. Develop the ability to see from all points of view. You must love even the most dastardly character in your story.
6.    Write what you know. If you have never experienced wind-surfing, don't try to write about it.

Writing is like:
a) swimming -- you will fight against the water and tire yourself out in the beginning, but if you persist, you will become one with the water and be able to swim many laps.
b) cycling – you will fall and scrap your knee before the “aha” moment arrives, after which you will never forget how to ride a bike.
c) a marathon – it will be very long and lonely. It will go on forever. People may not understand you, think you’re mad. But no matter, the fulfilment you get, will be more than worth the pain.
Finally, think:

1.    What will you be 5 years from now if you write every day?
2.    What will you be 5 years from now if you dodn’t write every day?

Last advice: Read, read, read and read. Devour everything in sight. Develop an insatiable curiosity and hunger for knowledge. Learn from the masters. Imitate, don’t plagiarise. If you don’t have the time for that, forget about writing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hate self help books too. But I have heard enough people swearing by various self help bestsellers, claiming they 'changed their lives'. So, I'm not sure if it's my cockiness that makes me look at them with suspicion. Nevertheless, I'm dying to pick up the "Drawing on the…" out of sheer curiosity.
Oh, btw, I love the way you write, mama!