Sixty second writing tips: why we write

I saw the supermoon this week. It hung luminescent yellow in the low horizon.

From a scientific perspective, not too different from any full moon. But it was there, and it carried an emotion because it emerged in the first clear night sky we’d had over Wellington since the worst storm in years. And something struck me. Could I write about the emotions and mood it conveyed? Could I imagine how others might receive it, and write about them? Perhaps.

But also, maybe not.

I’ve spent over 40 years learning about writing and then doing it. I started when I was seven. I was formally trained in fiction writing. I’ve written every day I can since  forever – not just books in my academic field but also as a freelance journalist and writer.  Here’s my list. And I’ve done a lot of other work in the industry.

Yet from this experience I know that words are simply imperfect vehicles with which we try, as writers, to express the perfection of thoughts and concepts.

All too often I have the idea in my mind – and cannot translate that to the page to my satisfaction. The crystal perfection of concept, which cannot be conveyed by words.

The real skill of writing, I think, is the aspiration towards that end point  – which is unattainable. Naturally.

Yet we must try – and in that attempt, perhaps surprise ourselves. And our readers.

Your thoughts?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013

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9 comments on “Sixty second writing tips: why we write

  1. kokkieh says:

    I’ve been struggling with exactly this. I think in pictures. At times it’s so vivid it’s like watching a movie in my head. But when I try to translate that into words I find the end result seriously lacking. However, the only way to improve is to keep trying: keep reading and keep throwing words at the page. It reminds me of Thom Gunn’s poem, On the move :

    At worse, one is in motion; and at best,
    Reaching no absolute, in which to rest,
    One is always nearer by not keeping still.

    • I think in those terms too – not pictures as such necessarily, but the shapes and patterns that are made by concepts. It took me a long time to realise that a lot of people don’t think that way. But a lot of writers do – it’s where the content of the writing comes from. And you’re right, we can but make the attempt to translate that into the imperfect form of the written word.

  2. Stuart Young says:

    Every writer’s struggle, as it is every painter’s, musician’s, sculpturererer’s (is that correct?). :)

    • It is – and you’re right, it affects all the arts. There’s the old adage about the sculptor who insists that the sculpture is merely released from where it already exists inside the rock. Conceptually that’s probably true of all the arts.

  3. When it comes to imperfection our readers will forgive far more than we will, yet it’s our never ending struggle for perfection that will most endear them to us.

    • Absolutely true! And we must try to keep pushing the edges. It’s why I always say that learning how to write is an endless process.

      • Yes! The pursuit of perfection is an infinite pursuit. It doesn’t end until we reach our end and when we get there frustration and satisfaction will be there to greet us. Forever I’ll curse my inability to perfectly translate what’s in my head to the page and every one of those days I’ll be thankful for the opportunity. Great post.

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