February 8, 2007

Brain Damage

This blog has freaked me out the past few weeks. I did an incredibly stupid thing and now find myself unable to post without massive emotional trauma. I read a book on how to write.

It seemed harmless at the time, Pixie was at a friend's house for a few hours last week and I had time to kill so I went cruising the public library looking for a good read. All the David Sedaris books were checked out so I ventured to the Reference section and noticed a clump of books about how to write. I was intrigued and an hour later I left with the following titles:

Writing Creative Nonfiction
The 29 Most Common Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

How to Publish Your Articles
The Writer's Digest Guide to Good Writing
Write Tight: How to Keep Your Prose Sharp, Focused and Concise
How to Write and Sell a Column

During the next 24 hours I sucked up The 29 Most Common Writing Mistakes and How to Write and Sell a Column. As I prepared for bed the next evening I sat down to write a post as I usually do. Suddenly, I noticed every crutch adverb and cumbersome adjective. I was no longer supposed to write for myself but for my reader. My post needed to have proportion with no section dragging or lacking. For heaven sake, I couldn't deviate from my theme (did I even have one?) Don't self express. Don't preach. Don't be afraid. Don't try too hard. Don't use cliches. Don't Don't Don't. Suddenly I hated writing.

I've had to take a mental break for a few days and try and rid my brain of everything I've read. The books are all going back to the library first thing in the morning and dumped unceremoniously in the return bin. I can't believe there is actually a market for this kind of abuse. The last thing any writer needs is a book telling her why nobody will ever read a word she writes.

The last time I had any kind of writing class was high school English and I don't remember ever analyzing our own writing - we mostly just discussed other authors. I've always regretted that I didn't take Creative Writing class in college and thought I was missing out on some great secret. At least now I can put that worry at rest.

So I apologize about the lack of normal posts lately. I had to do a quick intervention with my brain and flush out some nonsense I'd inadvertently stuck in there. I'm feeling almost back to normal and hope to regale you all with cumbersome, opinionated, unbalanced posts as soon as possible.


Lindsay said...

You're a great writer, Sarah! At least this> reader loves your writing. :)

Amy said...

So it turns out that I've taught writing courses at several colleges, and here's what I think: The main purpose of those improve-your-writing books is to earn money for the publishers, whether by convincing professors to require their students to buy it, or by suckering inhibited writers into spending the money. Anyone who has kept a blog as long as you have can make or break whatever rules she wants to. (Like ending a sentence with a preposition.) Good for you for shaking off the shackles of commercial writing advice.

Sarah said...

What's a preposition?