I was taught writing by a poet. Formally, in a succession of tertiary courses, in the late 1970s. The lessons I took about writing from him carried a value well beyond what I really knew, then.
To this day, after 30 years and more than 50 published books and 500 feature articles, on top of this blog and other stuff totalling more than two million words in print, I still think of that poet’s lessons whenever I write anything.
What was the essence of his teaching? Questions. ‘What did they feel’? ‘What did that mean for them?’ And, implicitly, ‘how can we, as writers, understand and express that?’
Those questions are true for all writing, especially non-fiction, where such are the hardest of all questions to answer – and yet, also the most important. Why? Because they provide us with understanding. And yet the picture and emotional force in the mind – the fuel that drives all writers, drives anything truly creative and human – is literally inexpressible in the flawed vehicle of the word. Translating it to words destroys its perfection. We have to accept that words alone cannot convey the true picture, shape, colour and depth of concepts, feelings and emotions.
Indeed, when we think about it, the mind of one person cannot perceive the way another conceives something, for we can only express such in the limiting way of words.
And yet it is the duty – the mission – of all writers to try and discover ways of expressing themselves, in words, despite those limits.
That is the challenge. It is what writers must do. And over the next while I am now going to tell you – given the limits words place on concept – how to do it. At least as I understand it. I hope you’ll come along for the journey.
Along with other fun stuff which I’m adding to this blog because – well, it’s fun.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2014
Coming up: more writing tips, fun science geekery including that custard lightspeed trick, and more.