WhatWritersDo

whatwritersdo
“We must create trances without abusing our gift.”

Writers write, a tautological declaration hardly worth making. Some transcribe, or firmly believe that they do. Others exposit, delving into and fleshing out what might otherwise serve as little more than fleeting thoughts. Some say that they write non-fiction, a questionable assertion, since by filtering their thoughts through their fingers, they leave their own fingerprints all over the resulting pages. Others stick to fiction or fantasy, both genres capable of sometimes eliciting more authentic representations than any encyclopedia. But I speak of genres here, which attempt to classify writing into types, when writing seems more fundamental than whatever the Dewey Decimal System suggests.

All writing serves as a form of trance induction, in much the same way as all experience induces trances.
It draws attention away from otherwise undifferentiated perception into more focused observation, thereby blocking out most competing impressions. One might feel immersed in a piece of writing and feel transported into the scenes it describes. Some writing better succeeds at trance induction than others. Dry and disorienting writing suffers from poor trance induction. Poor writing has little to do with improper grammar or incompetent plot development, but an absence of this certain sort of magic, which the writer might remain blissfully unaware of when first laying it down. The stories that stumble all over themselves might well lack coherent plot development, feature clumsy sentence structure, and incorporate unintelligible word choices, but these seem more symptoms than root causes. The root cause might just be the absence of a magic wand or a slowly oscillating bright and shiny pocket watch inducing the trance.

Writers get in their own way. They wrestle with ten thousand mostly irrelevant rules concocted by people who take their language skills too seriously. Taken too seriously, any speech can turn into a sleep rather than a trance inducer, a trance too deep to serve most useful purposes. Create a too complex sentence and readers lose their way, awakening from their trance feeling disconnected and disoriented. Simple must emerge from the nattering cacophony of those ten thousand mostly irrelevant rules, often as an act of determined defiance against those whispering presences, much in the way that every adolescent must rebel against their upbringing to become adults. The writing’s never actually the thing. The trance induction serves as the essence of it.

The writer also becomes entranced. Some refer to this experience as flow, a partially conscious state. It seems to take a trance to create a trance, a self-reference impossible to describe. Dedication hardly helps and usually leaves distracting tool marks which editors must clean up later. The trance visits or not, and when it refuses to come, the keyboard might be better left alone until later. A small dedication extending perhaps as much as eleven minutes might be all required to determine if the flow’s visiting that day. Sit before the screen for eleven minutes, writing whatever comes out the end of the fingers. If at the end of this short period, the writer is still conscious of time, this awareness might indicate that the flow’s off visiting the zoo that morning. If after an hour, the writer remembers to check whether eleven minutes have passed, the flow visited and worked her magic.

Breathless prose only rarely flows out the ends of any writer’s fingers. Fortunately, the writer’s trance refuses to disclose this otherwise discomfiting truth. Once ‘done,’ the writer ‘rereads’ their work for the first time, mostly to check to see whether it induces the necessary trance state in them. However much the writer might have impressed himself when writing, the first reading should somewhat dissuade him from taking too seriously his recent experience of genius, for the reading trance will not prove complete without amendment. Editing might restore a sense of flow to something near it’s originally experienced illusion, but only rarely ever matches it, for reading, however trance-inducing, hardly compares to the quality of a writer’s trance.

Writers produce trances by means of trances. We are not conscious of our craft. We become aware of it only after the fact, through repetition, a pattern recognition which hardly represents anything like knowledge, skill, or, indeed, craft. Some writers doubtless feel as though they know what they’re going to say before they lay down the words. I can’t believe that any satisfy that intention, for the trances, the writer’s as well as the reader’s, discover unintended and unexpected content in the very act of exposition. The outline properly disqualifies itself. Writers seem to be dedicated learners, often surprised, discovering that their words disclose content they didn’t know they knew, and might not, even at the point of discovery, retain any understanding of possessing.

Because writing induces trances, writing can exist in essentially content free-states. Free use of innuendo leaves the reader to fill in the blanks, an act that the thoroughly entranced reader will find remarkably satisfying. Referring to nothings as merely ‘things,’ or posing irrational equivalences (most often accomplished by the illiberal use of the nefarious ‘is’), conscripts the reader into finishing the incomplete exposition. I refer the reader to almost any advertising copy and many business white papers, both of which seem to seek to distract the unavoidably entranced reader into doing the heavy lifting the thoughtful writer really should have already completed. Commerce thrives in the shadows of such distractions. Writers carry onerous responsibilities. We must create trances without abusing our gift.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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