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I've always viewed those how to write books as pointless. Seriously. You put me in a room with someone who swears by one, and within about five minutes I'll have to clean my shoes.

It's not that people can't get anything out of them, because I know people who have, and do, and that's all good and well in the grand scheme of the universe and shit. But me, I've always found that prescribed way of doing things to be a bit stifling, and I've always found that the books aren't really teaching you how to write, but rather Person A's Way to Write, and what do I care about Person A? I don't want to be that person, I don't want to write like that person, and I'd pretty much just rather stumble along working things out for myself. That usually means taking twice as long as anyone else, but it's my life, and I don't much have use for the time otherwise. But the other thing I've found is that there are also so many ways to write, and so many different kinds of writing, that it's really kind of ridiculous to sit down and put it into a book and say, here, this is how you should go about it. Smile and bless me as you do.

Take for example, me and academic writing. Now, I fucking hate academic writing. Seriously: right now, right this instant, I've nothing but hate. It's about the most non-creative, prescriptive and suffocating kind of writing I can engage in. It skirts plagiarism as a whole with a hair's breath and feels, in a way, built to limit original thoughts from emerging. At least, that's my feel of it; others obviously think differently; but of more importance here is the fact that all my fiction writing skills are completely fucking useless in it. Absolutely useless. The language required for it is different, artificially jacked up by jargon that it could quite easily scrap half of it. And, just as an example, it doesn't once allow for me to say, "Michel de Certeau was an arrogant Jesuit fuck who stood on the World Trade Centre and said, with black humour that could only be added years later, that he saw a city of explosions below."

That kind of thing would bring me right back to academic writing. I'd be right there. If I could just fill it with swear words, much in the way I fill this blog, I'd be a bit happier. But I can't. Instead, I find myself making endless notes before I even get to writing, laying out essay structures, planning arguments, putting everything together before I even get to the keyboard; and then, then, printing it out and pulling it apart, and rebuilding it so that it can be a simple little argument that, lets be honest here, is built out of the work of other people. This is entirely different to how I write fiction, which sometimes uses notes, rarely has structured plans, rewrites a lot, vomits first drafts, and usually finds me looking at the voice of each individual piece and finding how I can change that. All of which is done, more often than not, on a subconscious level. Done without thinking. Done without frustration. Done with that disappearance of self that, for me, signals that connection to that internal creative centre. Which sounds like all wank, but it's what makes writing fiction the thing it is for me.

But with academic work I feel every inch of it, every word, and at the end I look at it and think to myself, "Where's my voice? Where am I?"

Fucking thing.

I have spent the last week and a bit trying to make an argument work in my thesis. It is progressing slowly. Painfully. Right now you're all getting a feel for my frustration because I feel like sharing. Here, this is me sharing. I'm sure you're all pleased.

Comments

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lamentables
Nov. 20th, 2005 01:00 pm (UTC)
Meant to say yesterday, that I <3 your shiny, pink cunt.

Also, I can't remember whether you've watched Deadwood because, for more reasons than just the swearing, I think you might like it. Then again you might hate it, but it would be fun when you said so.
benpeek
Nov. 20th, 2005 09:17 pm (UTC)
Meant to say yesterday, that I <3 your shiny, pink cunt.

cool. someone made a user pic out of it, actually. so if you'd like it, it's currently in the comments of the page.

i have indeed seen DEADWOOD. it's neat.
springheel_jack
Nov. 20th, 2005 01:15 pm (UTC)
yes! So true. So very very true.
benpeek
Nov. 20th, 2005 09:18 pm (UTC)
:)
sonanova
Nov. 20th, 2005 07:45 pm (UTC)
I've tried very hard to steer away from the doom of academic writing, especially the prescribed academic-fiction writing. I had a professor who told me, in front of an entire workshop class, that I "sold myself short" by writing genre fiction. Well, if my intent is to sell my writing to professors, I probably am. (I know how to plug words in to make an attractive and intellectual sentence, but to pull someone in, to really engage them in the way that I want to, I write "cyberpunk." A little out of time, but nothing too wild...I much prefer Gibson's style of science fact, rather than science fiction.) Nevertheless, I forced myself to give up my ideals just long enough to finish that degree, graduating convinced that I never needed the piece of paper to write what I wanted (or to learn to write!) anyway...it just boosted my chances for grad school in my other field of interest.

Furthermore, I took an anth class the last semester of my undergrad, where the entire point was to get academic writers to write "creatively." Taught by the anthropologist wife of the same aforementioned fiction prof, I was pleased to find outlets for my work that I never considered valid. Of course, validity is relative and critics have scoffed at many of the books we used in that course, but it's a good feeling to know that, when I do write academically, there are a few others who have made it a little more likely that my work will be received with interest, rather than simply skepticism.

I guess the point is that good academic writing is out there, so long as we, as writers and academics, hold ourselves to higher standards than those imparted by some stuffy incontinent boobs who faint every time someone says the word fuck...or cunt, for that matter.
benpeek
Nov. 20th, 2005 09:36 pm (UTC)
yeah, i know there are good academic books out there. despite my opinion that de certeau is arrogant, his THE PRACTICE OF EVERYDAY LIFE is quite interesting and well written. i can think of a bunch of others as well. and you know, this morning i look at this post and think, 'jeez, way to go ben, just give in to the frustration and vent it for the world.'

*rolls eyes*

sometimes i need someone to tell me not to blog.

still, i agree with this for the most part. i do find academic writing hugely uncreative. anyhow: how you been going with your cyberpunk stuff? any of it round?
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