The Value In Listening To Writers Talking About Writing

The point about writing is that other people read your end product –  right?

Right.

But there’s also value in listening to writers talk about the writing process itself.

This is not only because writers like words – and that makes for easy listening – but because hearing about their writing process opens up insight into the world of writing from A to Z.

Writing is a hidden, personal place. It’s the place writers go to when they are shut in their sheds like Roald Dahl, or tapping at their laptops in offices consumed by noise, fear and deadlines like journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Berstein in the film All The President’s Men. 

Roald-Dahl-in-writing-hut

When writers wind backwards from the end result you gain insight into how you go about “this thing called writing” in the first place.

First up. What is writing anyway?

Looking at the gallery of quotes about writing at goodreads.com, one thing becomes apparent.

Every writer thinks about writing differently or at least they say different things about the same process.

Stephen King, the author with a knack of telling us how the backwaters of the US make minds twist to horror, wrote a book called “On Writing, A Memoir Of The Craft.”

In it he’s given perhaps the most universally applicable quote of all:

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will.” 

One online dictionary defines the craft of writing as either “the activity or skill of writing” or “the activity or occupation of composing text for publication.”

Ah ha! So writing is an activity, a skill or an occupation and can also be for publication. It all becomes clear now.

Or does it? 

Listening to writers talking about their writing process is as fascinating as the work they produce.

This is because the words on the page are the visible peak of a large iceberg submerged beneath.

We all know that icebergs are dangerous don’t we – we’ve seen Titanic struggle and sink in TV dramasdocumentaries and blockbusting movies.

The writing process: what lies beneath!
The writing process: what lies beneath!

Listening to writers talking about their craft helps us navigate through 

Hearing about what happens after inspiration strikes, how the worlds are crafted and created, what frustrations get in the way of the plot or the perfect sentence and how editing finishes the result, are all nuggets of information that help us other writers on our voyage towards publication.

We might find an iceberg glancing across the bows but with understanding of how the writing process works for other people, we can swerve out of the way before disaster strikes.

Sometimes journalism and creative writing meets as you find in this You Tube clip from the BBC series “5 Minutes With” Philip Pullman.

Pullman democratises writing, saying that we all tell stories but writers know ‘what to do’ with a story to make it into a book. Then it’s the journalist who knows how to research and ask the right questions and how to open up the interview that makes it a success.

Both are fascinating insights into the writing process itself.

To quote Mr King:

“So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want.”

Thank you for your words, writers. To know a little bit of your iceberg, helps us with ours.

© Carrie Henderson 2015

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