Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Writing faultlines

In Thoughts on November 11, 2012 at 8:27 am

For some reason, the topic of writing has come to me from a number of different angles recently. Firstly, I came across a book “The Lonely Planet Guide to travel writing. This book tries to show the travel enthusiast  how to make a living from travel writing. A very nice book full of good ideas, although it has not induced me to quit my day job. But I have rarely seen such a comprehensive guide on a bookshelf.
Secondly riding the wave of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOC) and on the coat tails of a successfully completed course in Gamification offered by Prof. Kevin Werbach on Coursera, I have enrolled in a course on Writing in the Sciences.
And thirdly I am reading “Distrust that particular flavor” by great author and inventor of Cyberpunk William Gibson. The book collects a number of his non-fiction essays produced on various occasions, and being a fiction writer, he has quite a few things to say on the subject of writing, and how he justifies straying from his vocation. (Okay, a minor point in the same category is the discovery of Prof. Matthew Kirschenbaum’s work and blog treated in a previous post.)
There is one point that stuck out at me. Both the writing course and the literature going with it emphasize the importance of de-cluttering your writing. This seems to be a widely held belief, pursued with zeal and verve. Now in Gibson’s book I found a piece, where he recounts how, after an early start as a Picker, finding rare items in the mounts of thrift shops and selling them on into serious antiques channels, he got sucked into the web by rare mechanical watches on auction on eBay. I found the story personable, credible and a worthwhile read. But in the footnote, explaining the background of the piece, Gibson opens with how he feels this piece deserved a haircut. And that made me say “Huh?” out loud in a packed plane. Here is a self-professed fiction writer criticizing his own work as cluttered. I felt there was nothing wrong with the piece, and maybe, science and all aside, maybe this Cut the Clutter business has gone too far.