Friday, September 02, 2005


Kia ora (be well) to anyone reading this.

I'm learning how to write - really write - and this blog is one of the tools I'll use to note down my thoughts. Why a blog? My learning might help others, and it's easier to find stuff on a blog than on my computer (well, not really, but psychologically...)

When I say I'm learning to really write, it's a bit of a surprise to myself because I've been a self-employer, er, writer for the past four and a half years. Before that I was a copywriter and then an editor. I've only ever written for a job. So what am I on about?

The kind of writing I've done to date has been very instinctual and mostly in little bits - 30 second radio ads, 2-page press releases, etc.

Since late 2004 I've gotten serious about getting into the more arty side of writing. Y'know, movies and novels, the kind of stuff every writer says they're working on. I tried to deny that side of myself for a long time in favour of hard-nosed business/marketing, but I was going against the grain of my own personality.

So, finally, I'm going back to school.

Sort of.

I'm not literally going back to school - although I do find myself regularly reading and studying quite near to a polytechnic. Near, but not at. :)

But I have got the books out, and I'm starting with:
The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing by Hazel Smith (Allen & Unwin, 2005)
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee (ReganBooks, 1997)

It helps in a way that the two books are almost diametrically opposed ideologically. McKee passionately advocates the classical structure of story; Smith (reflecting the Australian academic system, I guess?) equally passionately poo-poos traditional structures, encouraging readers and students to 'deliberately transgress' older forms in search of the new and innovative.

In fact, I really appreciate knowing from the outset the philosophical baggage my teachers are bringing with them. I was kind of shocked to read in the intro to The Writing Experiment:

"...The book also connects with many of the ideological and political issues at stake in the work of cultural theorists, such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan or Michel de Certeau, and behind them the towering figures of Marx and Freud who have influenced so much intellectual thinking in the twentieth and 21st centuries."


Marx ... Freud ... towering figures? I guess in a neutral sense, they have had a lot of influence, but in my book they don't warrant much admiration.

Okay, so I haven't done much deep study into psychology or politics, but here's what I understand to be the basic viewpoints of these two individuals:

Marx: The workers are going to revolt, overthrow monarchies and capitalists, and live in harmony and peace until the next revolution.

Freud: Everything is about sex. Yes, even [whatever you just thought couldn't possibly relate to sex]. And all children want to kill their parents of the same, er, sex.

Still, it has made me want to find out a bit more about psychology, even if just to find out where Jung disagreed with Freud and why. Yes, and maybe politics. Actually no, I'm just saying that about politics.

Having said all that, and established that I don't like the philosophical viewpoint of The Writing Experiment, I'm glad they're upfront about it. Likewise with Story.

This post is getting too long. I'll come back with initial lessons in another post.


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