Patrick Ward words, code, and music

An Incubation Period

Despite the appearance of tumbleweeds floating across the pages of this blog, I have been busy. In fact, I write daily, only it’s personal, something shared between the binary pages of my journal and the me that insists he must write. That doesn’t mean that the goal has changed, or that the stories have turned into ghostly apparitions of a forgotten dream. I’ve come to see this as a period of incubation, in which the author, me, tries to understand what it means to be a writer, takes the writing to a deeper level and begins to absorb the lessons of those who came before him.

I’ve been reading a lot of Hemingway lately, mesmerized by his use of dialog to reveal the emotion behind his characters and the terse, yet descriptive, prose that seems to flow through a story with ease. I’ve also found Anton Chekhov, who wrote delightfully short vignettes about life in 19th century Russia and taught the world what a short story could be. But, it’s not all dead writers and archaic prose. I’m also about to embark on my first Neil Gaiman novel, American Gods. However, I have to admit to a certain paucity in my knowledge of contemporary authors. I seem to be stuck in the reading lists of my college literature courses. And so, I’m actively pulling together a more contemporary list to accompany all those dead authors.

In addition, I’ve been reading about the craft of writing. Books such as Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” and Stephen King’s “On Writing” are always close by. I read these in short bursts. They are like amphetamine boosters to the creative brain.

During this period of reflection, I’ve realized something important about the craft of writing: to be a good writer you must read great works. All writers share a common thread of skill and knowledge. In a way, we’re like the first open source hackers; learning from, stealing, and mashing together all the great works that came before us. We’re also like time lords as we scuttle through centuries of stories and wonders that teach us about writing, the human condition, and the common themes that interweave throughout history. I’m finding that the quality of the reading I engage in has a direct correlation to the quality of the writing I spit back out.

So, even though I have felt some pang of regret at not having published the quantity of posts I did at the beginning of the year, I feel that the work I have been doing is equally as important. This journey has only just begun.