Sunday, June 5, 2011

On Writing...

One of the primary purposes of this space is for me to be able to write. I do a fearful amount of writing in  the pursuit of my PhD, and I've begun to do writing on the side as well, some business, some pleasure.
The most recent iteration of this space was really a place to work out the varied inspirations given me by my Muse, a capricious creature, to be sure, playful, but on the whole respectful of my creative soul. Mostly.
In any case, someone pointed me in the direction of these rules for beginning writers, which I saved on instapaper, and so forget the original source. Sorry. Yell at me in the comments, if you (whoever you are) think it was you I've forgotten. I'd hazard a guess at boingboing, but I could be wrong.

From India Uncut:

V.S. Naipaul’s Rules for Beginners

1. Do not write long sentences. A sentence should not have more than ten or twelve words.
2. Each sentence should make a clear statement. It should add to the statement that went before. A good paragraph is a series of clear, linked statements.
3. Do not use big words. If your computer tells you that your average word is more than five letters long, there is something wrong. The use of small words compels you to think about what you are writing. Even difficult ideas can be broken down into small words.
4. Never use words whose meaning you are not sure of. If you break this rule you should look for other work.
5. The beginner should avoid using adjectives, except those of colour, size and number. Use as few adverbs as possible.
6. Avoid the abstract. Always go for the concrete.
7. Every day, for six months at least, practice writing in this way. Small words; short, clear, concrete sentences. It may be awkward, but it’s training you in the use of language. It may even be getting rid of the bad language habits you picked up at the university. You may go beyond these rules after you have thoroughly understood and mastered them.

Naipaul seems to have been after a certain type of writing here, to be sure. As an academic, I sometimes write long sentences, and long words. I likely often run over his 12 word and 5 letter limits. Still.
The original post that pointed me to these rules pointed out the especial usefulness of #4, and since I've read it, I've noticed the very dangerous habit of doing so in my own writing, and, worse yet, in my conversations. Since then, I have, I am proud to say, not broken rule #4 once. And it makes me feel much better.  In my own experience, #7 is particularly useful as well. Training in writing is dreadfully important. My easiest writing, the stuff that really flows, that comes out clean, the stuff I actually have fun with, always happens when I've been writing on a daily basis.
Oddly, it doesn't matter what I've been writing, either, I just need to be writing.
I suppose that means I should be nice to my Muse, doesn't it, gentle reader?