Wednesday, March 7, 2012

We sought an author, we found a man.

In moments of "unspiration" (un-inspiration, you know) one of my chief delights is reading other writers' work. There is something satisfying at surveying a world of diverse styles and knowing that each author, in their own way, is serving the literary world equally well. Sometimes a certain style will reach out, snatch your heart and squeeze it unbearably between fingers of joyous pain. Jenny did that to me the first time I read her blog. (and continues to do so on a shockingly regular basis) I was effectively pen-slain.

Pen-slaying--that act of writing something that so speaks to another writer's heart that it renders their own pen ineffectual for a day or so.

In these moments of recovering from being slain by another's pen, the temptation is great to bemoan your own style. "I can never write the way Jenny does!" I might lament. And it may be true. I may never be able to write in the way Jenny does because that style belongs to her. It was a gift from God to her. Does that make my style any less worthy? No. You may not be able to write like me (you may, in fact, be much better) but that does not mean that my writing is any superior than yours.

What am I saying then? It is best summed up in this quote:
When we see a natural style we are quite amazed and delighted, because we expected to see an author and find a man.  ~Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 1670
I speak of natural style. When it is missing, we have a book. When it is present, we have a world. I could, perhaps, build my words until my writing looked precisely like another writer's and yet it would not have the same effect on people as Jenny's has. Why? Because those words would be missing soul. They would not have been written from my heart. They would appear as they were: fabricated and stilted. To quote Theodore Laurence of Little Women:

"Mediocre copies of another man's genius."

How does one find their natural style? Write the first things that come to mind. Write quickly and without stopping to think. Do not worry about rules and regulations at the first. Just write. Later there will be time for rewriting and editing and such but for now, just write. You will need to add polish. You might have to get on your hands and knees and scrub the tiles of your words until they reach their full marble-shine. But by writing without a thought for what people think of it or what effect it is having, you will find your natural style and in that natural style your reader will find, not soul-less words, but a wealth of heart-lyrics that will capture the mind and heart.
It's worth it, really. :)


Maria said...

You have pen-slain me quite a few times, actually. I think it first happened when I read 'Marcella Gray', when I was pen-beheaded, hung, and shot for good measure. I think the thing to do when you're pen-slain is to say to yourself, "Look at what she did with the talent God gave her! I wonder what I can do with mine." You've been very inspiring to me that way. :)

Rachel Hope said...

wonderful post, I always find my self pen-slain and a lot more by you and just about every other writer out there, I enjoy reading for that reason.

Amanda said...

Wow! Good thoughts!