April 17, 2018

The problem of sneering: are some people offended by others’ big dreams?

Posted in Fiction Writing, performance, publication, Success, writing for fun tagged , , , , at 8:00 am by Rebecca Hein

The problem of contempt toward unsuccessful writers is huge indeed if a musician feels free to sneer at a writer. Just to deepen the mystery—and the need for writers in particular to protect themselves—nobody ever derided me for wanting to be a professional cellist.

When I was at the most intensive hard-work and skill-building stage of my cello playing, my parents and teachers expressed concern for the effects of my impractical goal on my future, and encouraged me to add teacher certification in music to my college major of cello performance. But not one person criticized me or slighted my hopes.

By contrast, I learned early not to talk much about my hobby—writing—because I quickly discovered it was a waste of time and energy to deal with the invective that often seemed to result.

Were people jealous? Offended that I liked to do something fun and rewarding with my spare time? Affronted that I dared to nurture and follow my creative ideas?

Or did they sense my own big dreams, years before I was conscious of those dreams? But even if they did detect the presence of those possibly unrealistic dreams, why should they therefore resent and criticize?

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March 6, 2018

A successful story; a flaw in the plot

Posted in Creativity, Fiction Writing, Flow, flow in writing, Harmony, Momentum in writing, music and writing, performance tagged , , , , , , , at 6:05 pm by Rebecca Hein

As we have seen, creative momentum can sweep the reader along, sometimes with such power that he or she doesn’t notice small faults in our plot or narrative. Since nobody can craft a story perfect in every technical detail, we need to generate this excitement to help our mission—to communicate the message that won’t leave us alone until we’ve at least tried to express it.

Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a good example of a story with a powerful message, embedded in a plot with at least one rather large flaw. How can the story succeed when the author obviously painted himself into a corner and, to escape it, has stretched the actions of one minor character beyond what’s plausible?

This contradiction—a compelling story with a significant flaw that doesn’t diminish the power of the narrative—has sent me back to the book several times, trying to figure out how the author did it.

In my own writing, I want the state of mind that can fire a brilliant story. As with my cello playing, I know that if I achieve total absorption for myself and my audience, they will be more likely to forget my small errors.

September 19, 2012

Self-exploitation, Part One

Posted in performance, publication, self-exploitation tagged , , at 12:13 pm by Rebecca Hein

Creative artists often do their work for little or no money. Writers allow their pieces to be published for no pay, and musicians perform for free.

Why do we allow ourselves to be so exploited? This question haunted me for decades until I finally saw the answer.

September 12, 2012

On Performance

Posted in performance, publication tagged , , at 12:43 pm by Rebecca Hein

Musicians are exhorted to perform whenever possible. “Play for the plumber; play for the milkman; play for your friends.”

This is sound advice. Performing isn’t like practicing because others are listening. Therefore our frame of mind is different and we have to get used to it. Only extensive experience will accomplish this.

Writers also need to adjust to publication, or the prospect of publication, which is our equivalent of performing. One excellent way to start is to write for local markets, anything from your church newsletter to your hometown paper.

This accomplishes two things: it teaches you the habit of communication, and it forces you to write for an audience. Then, when larger opportunities present themselves, you’re ready.

May 30, 2012

The Dual Nature of Performance, Part Four

Posted in performance, Practice Writing, self-consciousness tagged at 2:30 pm by Rebecca Hein

Seasoned musicians know that even the most thorough practicing can’t prepare them for the spontaneity of a performance. This is both good and bad, of course, because all your preparations insure you as much as possible against the accidents that can occur in front of an audience. Yet you want an element of unpredictability or your performance will be dull.

In writing, when we know that an editor or agent will be reading our work, we freeze. Yet with enough practice at writing in this self-conscious state, we learn that the fun of storytelling and ideas can take over and even produce some of our best work precisely because we know somebody will be “listening.”

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