Thursday, July 8, 2010

One Hundred Essential Secrets of Writing a Masterpiece (Secrets 95-100).

I will be revealing these requirements one at a time,
one a day, unless I am compelled to add more than one a day
or less than one a day.

95. Only one in one hundred masterpieces are known to be masterpieces
by their creators at the time they are writing them.

Therefore, it is better to not know you are writing a masterpiece,
if you are. In other words, it is more likely that you are writing
a masterpiece if you don't know that you're writing a masterpiece.

For every known masterpiece, there are one hundred masterpieces
nobody has ever heard of.

Even if you know you are writing a masterpiece, it's better that you keep
that fact from yourself, in order not to become nervous and blow it.

It is all right, however, if you know you are writing a masterpiece,
and you really are writing one, to enjoy it with a little awe
and a touch of wonder, as long as the awe and wonder remain objective,
as in, "Hmm, this is a masterpiece in the making, but it's too late
to stop now, so I may as well finish it and see if anybody else agrees
or notices."

If you are going to write a masterpiece, never start out intending
to write one, but allow yourself to have a glimmer of it here and there,
much as you might pretend not to see a fox in the corner of your eye
in the woods in order to keep it there, draw it closer, increase
the chills up and down the spine without having the fox know and bolt.

"Whatever you think writing a masterpiece may feel like, it does not
feel like that. It feels like something else, something smaller
and quieter, like writing a very good sentence, followed by a remarkable
sentence, followed by a simple sentence, then a silent sentence, and
then another very good sentence, etc., and before you know it, you have
a very good paragraph, or even a remarkable paragraph, and you're on your way." -Melville

a. Know yourself.
b. Be yourself.
c. Forget yourself.

97. Before/while you start writing, listen to a piece of music
that will open your heart and/or mystify your reason, such as
Warren Zevon's "Please Stay" (recorded when he knew he was
dying), or Chet Baker's "Tenderly," or Emmylou Harris" "Goodbye"
(written by Steve Earle), or some gem of innocence by Sparklehorse.

The bridge from not writing to writing is as passing through
a wall, or from the dimension of the mundane to the dimension of
inspiration. There are one million ways to be not writing; there
is only one way to be writing. We forget what joy writing is and
remember it only as a task and a chore--until we start writing.
Music can transport us from the state of the laboring mind to the
state of the soul in clarity and contemplation.

THEN, AFTER writing, the heart that is taxed in creating needs the
salve of music that is pure beauty, like Pachabel's Canon in D, or
Al Green's "Love & Happiness," or Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," or
Etta James' "At Last." This sort of music not only eases the heart's
return to the "real" world, it conditions the heart to anticipate
reward at the end of the writing day and to therefore be more willing
to abandon all its resources in the service of the writing. As absurd
as this may sound, trust me that it is even more absurd to dismiss
it without experimentation.

However, if you already know this, please ignore this step and accept
my thanks for reading it anyway, for I enjoyed writing it.

98. Always make sure that
"there is one small movement of the story that eludes your control,
one alien thing with no purpose
other than to teach you
that in the darkest corner of the story
dwells a wild force
that is too much
a part of you to see, a blind spot--
just as you do not see your own eyes
as they sweep the woods you walk through for danger."
--Wilbur Daniel Steele.

99. Rewriting is not rewriting. Rewriting is writing at a deeper,
more relaxed level than the level of the raw original first-draft
writing. In rewriting there's no great divide between the "creative"
& "critical" "sides" of the brain. The "critical" side's criticalness
is transmuted by the heat of the creative into enlivening & clarifying
observation. They are not enemies, but essential allies. It's up to the
writer to introduce the creative & the critical, in the act of writing,
to help or allow them to befriend one another. Or the writer just steps
out of the way as the self-dismissed wall between the critical & creative.
The psychic place where rewriting happens is a combo of critical &
creative, a place where they meet as compadres, helpmates, allies in a
kind of hyper-awake intuitional swaying which simply knows what to do
& what not to do, when to begin & when to stop.

100. Make absolutely sure that you include a detail, metaphor,
line of dialogue, aside, or description which is utterly irrelevant
to the story, to the development of character, or to the advancement
of the plot. It may even be meaningless, or gibberish, as long as
it is not too obtrusive. Bury it in the middle of the story or
novel. It will be an invitation to the subconscious of the reader to
truly surrender to the tale and to your writing. Furthermore, it is
a tribute to fallibility and will liberate you from perfectionism.

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L said...

I like this list. I'll try to keep checking it every other day. Seems like very helpful tips so far.

Richard Martin.... said...

Excellent, L! Thanks. I'll do my best. Enjoy.