Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Zen of Writing

Tom Robbins is my hero. He treats the English language with the perfect mixture of respect and playfulness.

I always thought if I wrote prose, I'd want to write like him. I don't do too well with prose because I tend to spend way too much time crafting before moving on to the next part. I can't get my pacing right when I do that. I approach writing prose like I do writing poetry.

So, imagine my surprise when I read about how Tom Robbins writes his novels. He crafts them one sentence at a time. No planning. No editing. Wow.

And, as I suspected, he considers words the most important part of writing. In an interview about writing, he states:

"Our world isn't made of earth, air and water or even molecules and atoms, our world is made of language," he says. "Can you imagine a school of architecture in which all the emphasis is on floor plans and roof lines but no attention is ever paid to the properties of stone and brick and lumber? Well our creative writing programs focus entirely on structure and generally ignore the inventory of words on which those structures have to be constructed. So that's one reason why so many of our novels are so verbally boring."

He also says this:

"Consider Shakespeare - most of his plots or characters were borrowed or stolen from other sources, though what made him great was his astonishing genius for language. Shakespeare's long shelf life is due primarily to his love for words and the manner in which he expressed them. If it weren't for his language, Shakespeare would have just been another pretty plagiarist."

Which is something I've always thought...

In any case, I highly recommend any book by Mr. Robbins.

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