Saturday, August 26, 2006
I AM a Writer
I bought a book from the reference section, one that I couldn't resist when I picked it up. It's called Elements of Style by William Strunk and EB White, and is a handy pocket-sized book containing all the rules and advice on composing prose.
It is a superb reference guide. It answers many of the questions and highlights where I have suspected I have misused words and grammar all this time. I am already compelled to re-write everything I have ever written, but perhaps I shall get round to that later. In the meantime I shall study it and keep it close to my workplace.
After coffee in my usual place, and in my usual seat, I headed to the Charlotte Square and to the Book Festival for the final time this year. I noticed on entering that Jacqueline Wilson had appeared earlier and that Alexei Sayle was due on later; both authors selling out weeks earlier. Not next year - I'm going to book early for the higher profile authors and for the workshops.
Today's session was a talk with Roger-Pol Droit, a French philosopher and writer. He was talking about the philosophy of everyday objects, and I originally booked it with a view to getting ideas or to expand how I view the outside world with my "third eye".
The book he was promoting was a diary he kept containing writings of encounters with every day objects; paper clips, pencils, books, cups etc. The premise came about when a friend of his asked him "How are things?" and Roger naturally answered "fine." Later he came to think that he didn't actually know how "things" were. What "things" was his friend talking about?
Sounds boring, but when you actually hear what he means it is fascinating. To give you an example, Brian Morton (a Paisley man) held up a glass and said, "as a scientist I would describe this is a device primarily for holding liquids, made from a composite of sand and metal extracts, and shaped at high temperatures for strength etc. etc."
He continued, "but on the other hand, I might tell you that this was the glass my father bought me on the day he died," thereby totally changing the view and importance you place on a single object, that perhaps might have no meaning to anyone else in the room. It was great stuff.
And with that my Book Festival was over. This year has been my best yet. I have spoken with and listened to other writers of differing genres and backgrounds, I have learnt more about the business of writing, I took the plunge and went to my first workshop, mainly to test the water and find out more about my place within the writing world (and in particular poetry).
But best of all, I have met many wonderful people and in particular have given my confidence a massive boost. I have shared the floor with other writers of different stages and have felt comfortable with where I am, the decisions I have made, and where I am going. This has been a real eye-opener, a confidence booster and more importantly, a massive source of motivation.
This week, as a result of all my work at the Book Festival and the Fringe, I actually FEEL LIKE A WRITER. Within my mind, I haved moved from being an office worker who writes part-time, to being a writer who has to work every day to pay the bills.
I AM A WRITER. And the funny things is, I never wrote a thing.
The philosophy seminar sounds wonderful.
STRUNK AND WHITE is THE single most important book for a writer to own. I read it cover to cover every time I do a major edit of a novel, and it makes me see the entire piece in a new way.