Monday, February 22, 2010

Rules of Writing

I hate all of these lists by big names in The Guardian about rules for writing "fiction." I hate the idea of "rules for writing." This nausea/disquietude perhaps summarizes why I never went to a MFA program, or survived in a writing workshop. I especially hate Joyce Carol Oates' (#5):

5 Unless you are writing something very post-modernist – self-conscious, self-reflexive and "provocative" – be alert for possibilities of using plain familiar words in place of polysyllabic "big" words.

Oh, fuck you Joyce Carol Oates, fuck you and your Marilyn Monroe novel. Seriously, it makes me crazy when mass market authors get so uncomfortable about experimental or postmodern writing, writing that is about ideas, that is wild, political, plays with form,not meant to be consumed in a paperback at an airport bookstore. You know who's on this Guardian list, for the most part? People who write "fiction" who treat it as a "craft" who play cult to the sentence (looking at you, Zadie Smith) and the tired ideas of dead babies. It's boring to me. Of course there are market-driven authors who are amazing, but none of them seem to be asked by The Guardian.The only list I liked was Jeanette Winterson's, and then Bookslut links to this, and I remember that I lived down the road from this greengrocer in London, which Jeanette Winterson owns, and would shop there all the time. Buying oranges, etc, joke could be made, won't.

But I was trying to think if I had any advice for writing. No one would ever ask me. Let me think.

1) Fuck around a lot when you're young. Do things for EXPERIENCE. Have lots of traumatic toxic love affairs. The best way to really get at the psychology of others is when they're suspended over you.
2) Continuing with the idea of fucking up, have at least one total to complete breakdown during this time period, or if possible, have it related to some trauma from childhood.
3)Survive
4) After surviving, begin to come into your own, begin to awaken.
5)Read philosophy & theory - don't borrow the language, engage with the ideas
6) Be political. Have opinions. Be angry. It's boring to not be political and engage with the world.
7)Read lots of literature. Be a voracious, promiscuous, engaged reader. Read the avant-garde, the high-modernists, works in translation, marginalized and "minor" writers, small press authors. Read the majors (Virginia Woolf, Beckett). Read the obvious books, wait a decade and read the non-obvious books, and then go back reappraise the obvious books.
8)See the world, see yourself, see others, see art, film...
9)Begin to keep a fairly involved journal
10)Always have really great pens. And notebooks. Have a notebooking system.

But I think my favorite advice of writing comes from Cixous:

Write, let no one hold you back, let nothing stop you: not man; not the imbecilic capitalist machinery, in which the publishing houses are the crafty, obsequious relayers of imperatives handed down by an economy that works against us and off our backs; not yourself. Smug-faced readers, managing editors, and big bosses don't like the true texts of women- female-sexed texts. That kind scares them. (Cixous, Laugh of the Medusa)