Monday, December 29, 2008

Toward Unique Writing

In all art forms there is a line between method and content. It isn’t always easy to discern, but it is always there. A couple of days ago I showed you a stained glass window I have done. If you look, there are mistakes I made that wouldn’t be there if I had spent more time perfecting my technique, but the image you see, the Bible with the earth and the sun, is what makes it unique.

With writing it is a little more difficult to separate method from content. Some people are complaining that writing workshops and writer’s conferences are creating writers who are producing manuscripts that are too similar rather than standing out as being unique. Part of the reason for this may be that they are crossing the line between teaching writers how to improve their methods and telling them what content to choose.

People may choose to ignore the mistakes I made with the stained glass window. Others may be more critical, but all people will include the image as part of their basis for liking or disliking the window. As writers, we need to understand that, though it is important to improve our technique, the choices we make in how to apply that technique must be our own.

It is much easier to tell someone how to be like someone else than it is to tell someone how to be unique. To be unique one must have the freedom to create. When we rely on the experts at writer’s conferences too much we listen to what they say and then we want to go to them and ask “am I doing his right?” Any expert worth his salt will hand the manuscript back without looking at it and say yes because there really is no right or wrong way. There are guidelines that may be helpful, but we should never assume there is a right way to write. When we do we begin to lose the thing that makes our writing unique.