Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Someone commented on my last post but it didn't come through correctly. If the person who posted it wishes, please feel free to try again.

That said, I want to say I'm really stoked about something and want to share with you.

In his "Daily Kick in the Pants" email yesterday, New York Times best selling fantasy author, Dave Farland, included some rules for writers that another gentleman had written. Mr. Farland invited his world-wide audience to add to the list.
I didn't have any rules to add but I did have several with which I disagreed. I chose one, wrote an essay explaining my differences in opinion and sent it off. Today Mr. Farland included my entire essay in his daily email. I cannot begin to express how pleased I am. Knowing that he has, for years, been a judge of writing contests, I feel like I was just awarded the Pulitzer prize.
I'm posting my essay below with Mr. Farland's introduction at the beginning.

This next one is from Karen Mittan. It’s long, but it’s worth reading every word, because it’s an excellent analogy. She says,


“I really like Mr. Miller’s analogy in his number eight rule for writing: Don’t be a draught horse. Work with pleasure only. It’s evocative. But I totally disagree with his syllogism.

To begin with, he seems to assume that draught – or draft – horses are all work and no play or pleasure. Having grown up with draft horses, I’d beg to differ. True, their work is generally tedious and repetitious. Our horses pulled farm machinery and sleighs in weather that no animal could enjoy…hot in summer and minus forty-five F. in winter. They did it daily and faithfully. But to assume there was no fun involved indicates, to me, that Mr. Miller maaaybe didn’t know his draft horses very well.

I’ve known horses that were clowns. (We had one who repeatedly performed a routine he discovered we’d laugh at.) I’ve known horses that weren’t above getting their own back at each other or at their owners. (We had one horse who was smart enough to figure out that chewing on my long hair would freak me. If it happened today, I’d have a word with the horse. But I was ten at the time and he got the reaction he was looking for. Knowing animals as I do now, I think that old boy had a lot of fun at my expense that day. He probably chuckled about it for hours.) I’ve also known horses that were the epitome of faithfulness, trustworthiness and loyalty while in the harness but full of play with each other once they were turned out to pasture.

And then, too, if one wants to compare what writers do to what an animal does, isn’t the ‘draught’ horse the perfect comparison? Draft one, draft two—draft twenty? Much of the work of writing is as tedious as the day-to-day work of a draft horse. Constructing scenes can be joyful. I frequently have a lot of fun with them. But ohmygoodness! those sequels are the pits. Making prose flow, bridging the gap between scenes, is very difficult and excessively tiring. At least it is for me.

In my experience, constructing a story that has thought, continuity and flow is not particularly pleasurable. It’s tedium ad nauseum. Like the draft horse’s routine work, in order to finish a story, an author must do the same thing over and over and over: apply the seat to the chair, the fingers to the keyboard and the brain to the project at hand.

It’s repetitious, too. While the draft horse may pull the plow in a new field tomorrow, he’s still pulling the plow in the same general pattern his owner determined for him today. So, too, the writer may be working on a new story but it has to have the same basic elements, the same general plot structure, the same carefully constructed language. And he’s not working for himself, either. His reader is his owner. Like the draft horse, if he doesn’t work hard to please the ‘owner’, he may not have too much food on his table next winter.

I think there’s a reason why draft horses were/are frequently called ‘plugs’. According to Webster’s finest, the word has a double meaning when applied to draft animals: ‘a worn out animal’ and ‘to work hard and steadily’. I think both definitions frequently fit writers just as well. We do become worn out with the seemingly endless drafting and rewriting of our prose/poetry projects. However, we also must work hard and steadily if we're to accomplish the task at hand.

So I identify with the ‘draught’ horses. I think we have a lot in common. Do I work hard and steadily? I try to. Do I always enjoy what I’m doing? Frequently not. It is, after all, work. Do I gain pleasure as I write? Sometimes. When the prose is flowing easily, when the humor bubbles up, when an acute phrase pops into into my head, then my work is a pleasure. Most of the time, however, I just plug away, knowing that, if I’m careful and consistent, the pleasure will come at the end of the day when I’m turned out to grass and I can read what I’ve written and call it good.”

5 comments:

Garan said...

Wow, the things you find on Google!
Sorry to improperly post on your blog but I saw the name and couldn't resist.

Hope you all are doing well. Does Larry have black lipstick on?

Lili looks bored on the couch...

-Elder Garan Keeler
garank@gmail.com

Rick & Karen Mittan said...

Garan, what a blast from the past! Great to hear from you.
No, it's not black lipstick. It's his guitar pick. And Lili was just posing. That pic was taken about time you were downtown visiting us.
I just let Lili read your comment and reminded her you were the blond missionary who took the wheels off the Sisters' car. She remembered instantly.
We're doing ok. Larry is married, living in Spokane, Wa. and was just accepted into the Air Force - pending his physical next week. Lili goes to Job Corps in Clearfield, Ut. Feb 2 where she plans to get her CNA with duo certification in welding. Yes, you read that right. She took homebuilding in highschool and outdid everybody else in her class - all boys. She loves to pit herself against guys and show them up. Rick works for the church in their printing dept. and I'm a full-time writer.
For newer pics of the kids, go back a ways. Entire family is featured on the later posting in Sept 2009. Lili's drama photos are about Jan 2008 and her graduation photos are later that year. In one of them you'll see Larry with his (then future) wife along with Lili and a family friend, Nate.
Great to hear from you again! What's happening in your world?

Rick & Karen Mittan said...

Sorry, that posting with the family pic was Sept 2007, not 2009

Rick & Karen Mittan said...

Thank you.

如此的 said...

You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.............................................