Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE

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ARCHIVES OF May, 2013

What It Takes

What It Takes

Specificity

By Shawn Coyne | Published: May 31, 2013

If I were only allowed to give one piece of advice about line-by-line writing (constructing sentences one after the other), it would be this:  Be specific.

To write well is to be clear, to choose language that best suits your message. To accomplish both of these tasks (clarity of word choice to beget laser focus on a central idea) requires specificity. It just does.

Obviously if you have no keen understanding of what it is you want to convey to a reader before you begin writing, you’ll have difficulty being specific. In fact you’ll have difficulty writing anything.

If I were to suddenly change the direction of the core idea of this essay to the physical size of paragraphs and how to make them the most aesthetically pleasing so that each designed page of your completed work takes on its own Rorschach like image system, you’d probably have to go back and re-read what I’d written in the previous paragraph to see where you, as the reader, lost your train of thought.  If you did go back, you’d discover that I was writing about how important it was to be specific and then without any transition switched to writing about how to make the physical layout of your paragraphs visually interesting.  Not only have I completely changed the tack of my argument for specificity, I’ve suggested something ridiculous.

Worse still, I’ve confused you.

Unfortunately, we, as readers, will intuitively blame ourselves for losing our train of thought. Especially when we read published prose in some fancy newspaper, magazine or book. This “I’m so stupid” feeling is much the same as the one we all had as children when we first learned to read. It’s difficult to turn off the “now what is this writer trying to tell me?” part of our brain. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes
12 Comments

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Put Ass Where Heart Wants 2 B, Part 2

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 29, 2013

I was reading an article about Twlya Tharp, the renowned dancer and choreographer of Push Comes to Shove and many more—and the author of The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life.

Twyla

Twyla Tharp

The article said that every morning Twyla emerges at six A.M. from her New York apartment building (my apologies to Ms. Tharp if I get any of these details wrong) and catches a cab to her dance studio, where she starts her day’s work.

Here’s what I immediately thought:

I’d love to set up a video camera across the street from Ms. Tharp’s building, pointing directly at her front door. We could mount the camera on, say, the third or fourth floor of the opposite building, so it had a nice wide down-angle of the sidewalk and the street. We’d program the camera to turn itself on every morning just before Ms. Tharp emerges from her building and to stay on till she had successfully flagged down a taxi and driven off.

We’d do this every day for a year, then edit the footage together in sequence. In other words, we’d create a video record of one full year of an artist getting up early every morning and, come hell or high water, heading off to her place of work.

Think about it. We’d have days with blizzards. We’d have sweltering summer mornings. We’d have gorgeous, crisp days in Fall. We’d have rainy days when it was impossible to find a cab. On those mornings we’d see Ms. Tharp trundling off for the subway or bus, or shouldering her umbrella and heading for the studio on foot.

Let’s say each morning’s video snippet, after editing, lasted thirty seconds. Twyla comes out of her building, Twyla hails a cab, Twyla gets aboard, the taxi zips off. Suppose she does this 300 days a year (we’ll have to give her a few weeks off, not to mention out-of-town travel days). At thirty seconds per, our little video document would be 150 minutes long. Two and a half hours.

What’s great about any work of art is what it implies. This Twyla Tharp video implies a lot. It implies habit—powerful, positive, professional habit. It implies will, dedication, love, devotion, commitment. It implies slaying the dragon of Resistance every morning. It implies an entire philosophy of life and art. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
22 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

Who Owns—And How Are Artists Paid For—Art?

By Callie Oettinger | Published: May 24, 2013

Who Owns the Art?

If ideas arrive on the wings of Muses, God, or whatever divine creator you believe in, does the final art belong to the artist or to that divine creator?

I believe in the Muse. I believe that she arrives, laden with ideas, upon that “thunderous train of air” Elizabeth Gilbert described when she talked about poet Ruth Stone:

It would come barreling down at her over the landscape. And she felt it coming, because it would shake the earth under her feet. She knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to, in her words, “run like hell.” And she would run like hell to the house and she would be getting chased by this poem, and the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. And other times she wouldn’t be fast enough, so she’d be running and running and running, and she wouldn’t get to the house and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and she said it would continue on across the landscape, looking, as she put it “for another poet.” And then there were these times—this is the piece I never forgot—she said that there were moments where she would almost miss it, right? So, she’s running to the house and she’s looking for the paper and the poem passes through her, and she grabs a pencil just as it’s going through her, and then she said, it was like she would reach out with her other hand it. She and she would pull it backwards into her body as she was transcribing on the page. And in these instances, the poem would come up on the page perfect and intact but backwards, from the last word to the first.”

I believe in the artist who latches onto an idea and nurtures it from seed to full-blown orchard.

And I believe that the artist’s final product belongs to her. The Muse may have gifted the seed, but the artist planted, nurtured and harvested it.

(more…)

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