Mindy Newell: The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Writing
Well, not when you’re working on your capstone project, the culmination of the past 18 months, the paper that will lead me to that walk down the aisle in mortarboard and gown to the hallowed, somber notes of Pomp and Circumstance. How did that get to be the graduation processional march anyway? Wait, I’m going to look it up. Tawk amongst yawselves….
This is what Wikipedia says: “The Pomp and Circumstances Marches, Op. 39” are a series of marches for orchestra composed by Sir Edward Elgar. In the United States, the Trio section,” Land of Hope and Glory” of March No. 1 is sometimes known simply as” Pomp and Circumstance” or as “The Graduation March,” and is played as the processional tune at virtually all high school and college graduation ceremonies. It was first played at such a ceremony on 28 June 1905, at Yale University, where Samuel Sanford, Professor of Music, invited his friend Elgar to attend commencement and receive an honorary Doctorate of Music. Elgar accepted, and Sanford made certain he was the star of the proceedings, engaging the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the College Choir, the Glee Club, the music faculty members, and New York musicians to perform two parts from Elgar’s oratorio – “The Light of Life” and, as the graduates and officials marched out, “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.” Elgar repaid the compliment by dedicating the “Introduction and Allegro, Op. 47” at the first London Symphony Orchestra performance later that year. The tune soon became de rigueur at American graduations, used primarily as a processional at the opening of the ceremony, although it is still used now only as at Yale.”
Oy, the things you and I learn because of this column!
As I was saying, academic writing is not at all like writing fiction, or like writing this column – which could be fiction. Some of it, anyway. You’ll never know, will you? Academic writing is about rules that must not be broken under any circumstance, although I think that only God knows why. I’ve had arguments with several professors – before I learned better – about why academic writing must be so dry and impersonal and polysyllabic. In other words, b-o-r-i-n-g. “Look,” I said. “Doesn’t it make sense that if the writing’s engaging, fun, and inclusive of the audience, that audience will enjoy reading it, and if the audience enjoys reading it, then the audience will r-e-m-e-m-b-e-r it. As in, the audience will not need ten cups of coffee just to get through the abstract.”
“Ha-rumph!” said the professors, looking down their snoots. “Balderdash! Ms. Newell, we assume you want to pass this course.
”Yes, sir,” I said. “Yes, ma’am.”
In other words, just shut up and do what they say, Mindy. And I do. And my academic writing is damn good, if I do say so myself, even if those last two sentences would never get through the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th Editon. Because they start with conjunctions.
But fiction writing – now that’s, as the doorman to the Emerald City said to Dorothy, a horse of a different color.
You can have fun when you’re writing fiction. Oh, there are rules about plot and structure and grammar. But those rules are easily broken. It’s about style. And style, baby? That’s the fun part. Style belongs to you. You, the author.
Raymond Chandler. Edna Ferber. Alan Moore. Toni Morrison. Ernest Hemingway. Anne McCaffrey. Brian K. Vaughn. Gail Simone. Neil Gaiman. Louise Simonson. Grant Morrison. Lynda Barry. Harvey Pekar. Mari Naomi. Frank Miller. Alison Bechdel. Each of these wonderful writers with their own style, their own voice. It’s one of the reasons, maybe the reason, why they are loved, why their books are snatched off shelves and downloaded onto e-readers.
Or maybe it’s not so fun. Maybe it’s hard, maybe it’s heartbreaking, maybe it’s terrifying, maybe it’s cathartic. Maybe you don’t really know where these words are coming from or why you have these ideas, but you only know that if you don’t get them out of your head or your soul and down on paper, someday they will eat at your guts and corrode your brain and destroy what’s left of your humanity.
Fiction as primal scream therapy.
Tuesday Morning: Michael Davis Continues With His Black Thing!
Tuesday Afternoon: Emily S. Whitten Reveals You, Too, Can Get Started!