Friday, July 20, 2012

Have You Tried Writing Like a Child?

I mean that literally. Have you ever tried incorporating the bad grammar, strange logic, weird characters, and all the other things that go into a child's "creative writing" into your own work?

I found this article called James Joyce: How to Write Like a Child in Seven Steps. It's not written by James Joyce; rather, it's about how his book A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is so confusing to read. (And no, I haven't read the book. But I can see from the samples in the article how confusing it might be.)

The author, Joe Bunting, suggests that we might improve our writing -- or at least have more fun with it -- by trying some of the childlike writing techniques Joyce used in his book. For example, he quotes the first sentence in the book:
Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow com­ing along the road and this moocow that was com­ing down along the road met a nicens lit­tle boy named baby tuckoo.…
Yes folks, this is from a published book for adults that is considered a great work of modern fiction. Have you ever tried writing something like that?

Let me ask you another question: Don't you think you can write something at least as good?

Most of us are far too critical of our own work. Nothing we write is ever good enough. Often we're ashamed of what we create because it doesn't sound like Stephen King or Nora Roberts or (in a more childlike vein) Shel Silverstein or Beverly Cleary or J.K. Rowling. And yet we don't realize that "perfect" isn't a substitute for "creative" or "exciting" or even just "fun." Do you really think that the Joyce book has been so popular because it's somehow above what other people write?

As Bunting points out, basically all Joyce did is write in childlike prose like that of many elementary children. Look, I know he might have tackled some profoundly deep subject in the course of the book. But would you have written about a profoundly deep subject in such childlike prose? That's my point.

Maybe it's time we give ourselves permission to enjoy writing for a change. We can always go back and edit our work to death if we so desire. But if we don't allow ourselves to just have some fun creating the raw material of our work, why should we expect anybody else to enjoy it?

Think about that next time you're struggling with a blank white page. Maybe you should forget about the profoundly deep subject you think you should be writing about and just write about the moocows coming down along the road.

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