“It’s not a matter of old or new forms; a person writes without thinking about any forms, he writes because it flows freely from his soul.”
Why do you write? Who is it for? What’s the purpose? It’s not for money or fame, nor should it be for the critics or your own pleasure. According to Russian author Anton Chekhov you need to erase yourself from the equation and write for your readers. Writing is such an ambiguous exercise that those who practice it still don’t know what drives them to write. It’s hard to pin it down as a mere intellectual endeavor because there’s almost a kind of metaphysical aspect to it. Some call it the muse, the spark, or even the little elf that plays the game of words.
Loneliness and pain are the bookends that enclose moments full of joy. They seem to be literature’s driving force and Chekhov’s excuse for his characters being lonely, sad, or unsuccessful. It seemed that the happier he was, the more misery and sorrow would exist in his stories. Fictional conflict became a form of preventing tragedies from entering his reality.
Writing is hard. It hurts. But aspiring writers will keep writing and rewriting the same sentence until they feel they have the perfect one. There are those who see them as wise masters of the craft. While others will look at them with turned up noses as eccentric weirdos who partake in the arts.
Chekhov once said:” Everyone judges plays as if they were very easy to write. They don’t know that it is hard to write a good play, and twice as hard and tortuous to write a bad one”. If you feel the need to write but are overwhelmed about how to go about it, here is some trusty advice from one of the masters.
Write without bias
“Is it our job to judge? The gendarme, policemen and bureaucrats have been especially prepared by fate for that job. Our job is to write, and only to write.”
Prejudice and righteousness have no place in fiction writing. All they do is block the flow of the story. Writers are witnesses and need to humbly admit they’re not the experts on life.
Nice and Short
“It is comprehensible when I write: ‘The man sat on the grass,’ because it is clear and does not detain one’s attention. On the other hand, it is difficult to figure out and hard on the brain if I write: ‘The tall, narrow-chested man of medium height and with a red beard sat down on the green grass that had already been trampled down by the pedestrians, sat down silently, looking around timidly and fearfully.’ The brain can’t grasp all that at once, and art must be grasped at once, instantaneously.”
Create moderation in your writing through unadorned language, as well as limiting the number of adjectives and adverbs. Go for substance over length. When proofreading, you need to ask yourself if something could be said in a simpler manner.
The value of editing
“My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying.”
Writing, erasing, crossing out, rewriting, and throwing away are essential parts of the process. Letting a text rest like fine wine and then revisiting with fresh eyes can be the best thing you can do.
Mulling on an idea
“You need to work continually day and night, to read ceaselessly, to study, to exercise your will…. Each hour is precious.”
If you’re walking down the street and you hear an incredible turn of phrase that sets an entire scenario in your mind: don’t let it go. Mull it over until you’ve found its shape and texture. Keep obsessing until you can touch its surfaces and smell its scents.
Show, don’t tell
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
If one of your characters is evil, don’t tell the readers. Show it to the readers. Convey characters through the way they respond to conflict rather than explaining why they are the way they are.
Don’t be afraid to look like a fool
“Try to be original in your play and as clever as possible; but don’t be afraid to show yourself foolish.”
Be fearless, bold, and original. Take your imagination to its limits and allow yourself the freedom to write silly things.
Read and travel
“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.”
Reading different genres and authors and experiencing new places is vital to a writer. Discovering worlds through books and traveling will fill you with new experiences and stories to tell.
Translated by María Suárez