How many lively notes in notebooks never grew into a book. How many wonderful texts were never finished because of the author’s endless doubts about himself? And how many great ideas crashed because the author never got the hang of it.
“Too simple,” “too complicated,” “somehow not monumental,” “too about me,” “too out of my head,” I hear from the authors I work with. It’s time to write about these empty fears. I’ll take five for starters.
1. “I think it’s kind of simple.”
I’ve heard these words from three different essay writers in the last week. Writing plain and simple is scary. What if I’m accused of being stupid? So some authors flood their text with clichés. But you can’t see the style under the clichés, and you can’t get pleasure from such a text. And it sounds solid only to those who understand little in literature.
Others resort to paraphrases and complex constructions, or pile up the meanings, seeking not to clarify the subject, and confuse the reader. Editing makes such an author panic. And when I ask what version is better: edited or unedited, the author admits that edited, but adds… that he wants to make it more complicated.
Here’s Hemingway: “The value and appeal of a good book consist in perfect simplicity, frankness, and as if unintentionally exposing characters and motives for action. It is the simplicity of language and thought. It is unsophisticated and free from conscious literary effort. But it is more difficult to write with straightforward simplicity than with deliberate complexity.”
A writer’s style must be direct and personal, his images rich and full-blooded, his words simple and vigorous. Great writers have the gift of brilliant brevity; they are hard workers, painstaking scholars, and skillful stylists.
As a rule, successful authors can masterfully write compelling stories about almost nothing. The great literary sin of modern writers is a penchant for embellishment and love of external glitz. I am wary of writers whose books are written with professional virtuosity.”
2. “My idea gets stolen.”
When you first start writing, you think ideas are worth their weight in gold. You have few of them yet, and you cherish everyone. But that won’t always be the case.
The more attention you pay to your texts, the more ideas come to you. At some point, there are so many of them that you settle down on something soft, smoke a cigarette, and announce a casting call. You test the idea this way and that, make it wait, lay back, and prove its promise.
The idea itself is not as valuable as its implementation. Think of how many books there are with the same ideas (after all, even Harry Potter is ultimately about the struggle between good and evil), but how differently they are written.
Publishers are not after ideas, but good writing. It’s not profitable for them to steal someone else’s finished work. It’s more profitable to contract with and pay the author than to spend money on lawyers and drag yourself through the courts.
3. “I’ll lose my style if I go to school.”
The most surprising fear for me. Do you think it’s so easy to lose your style if you really have it?
People don’t study to lose, they study to find themselves. To master not just one style, but different styles – and to have the best tools for different tasks.
The freedom of the author, in my opinion, is to choose from a large palette of tools to carry out any idea, not to write everything in the world in one style.
If you are afraid that a teacher will destroy your fragile inner world, choose a delicate teacher. Don’t go for an authoritarian master who lacks flexibility. Find your own person.
But don’t deprive yourself of the opportunity to start writing better and more consciously.
4. “It’s not serious: a blog, not a novel.”
I, too, sometimes think that a million of my notes will never make it into a big, serious narrative. But we live in an age where forms and styles are in full swing, where even science tends to be interdisciplinary, and where the Nobel Prize can be won with honors by the singer Bob Dylan. Although it started before, it’s just that now the scope has increased.
There are authors with a novel breath, there are miniaturist authors, and then there are those who like to mix it all up, shake it up, and shoot a cork in the ceiling.
5. “They’ll know too much about me.”
Honestly, yes. They’ll read you like a peeping tom. To write is to set yourself up.
What makes people tell their most intimate stories? What drives them to present themselves to the world as hurt, wounded, or vulnerable? And what makes these intimate papers writers make so openly attractive to others?
Perhaps it’s that they want their voice to be heard. And they themselves want to be seen.
Yes, in your book, even the most fictional one, you will be seen. Yes, prototypes and even casual encounters may recognize themselves and start swearing. And yes, sometime after that, you will live your life again. Only now with the book.