by Fausta M. Ballesteros - December 2008
All the famous authors, whether if they write novels, short stories or news, have something to say about writing. They reveal secrets, techniques, and give advice. But "we", the simple writers to be, never had the chance to hear about how the people like us write. That though mixed with a personal journey to unveil my own style, were the starting points to the following essay. I can't teach you anything. I just want to share my humble experience through the deep waters of writing.
William Gass said that, the expression "to write something down" suggests a descent of thought to the fingers whose movements immediately falsify it. For me this is free writing. That moment when the pen is only a tool that obey my hand and just moves. This is the type of writing I prefer the most: in my notebook, without computer and like a conversation between my mind and the paper. I believe that writing is a way of talking without being interrupted. It's therapeutic and cheaper than a shrink. Lord Byron used to say: “If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad.” I have plenty of papers with these handwritings and many notes that live inside my head waiting to be written down. I usually write more without paper. Just in my head. Some people have a visual way of thinking, with images; others with numbers, mine works with words, with titles, headlines, leads and endings.
Inspiration is everywhere, but writing comes more easily if you have something to say. "The best time for planning a book is while you're doing the dishes", said Agatha Christie. My moments are nights, when everybody is sleeping and I have my own space. If I'm trying to sleep, the ideas won't stop coming. That's why I keep a notepad and my Mac by the bedside. For some people loneliness and silence could be boring, for me it is the paradise to create.
Other moments of inspiration are my walks through the city with the stroller. New York is magic and as the ad said, the capital of everything. Home of every color, culture, fashion and flavor you can thing of. With so much energy so exhilarating that you can feel it in your soul. New York is a moving city, you can't just remain an observer. I believe that if you let the city get inside of your veins, magic things could happen. Even though it sounds a bit cheesy.
Motherhood it is my third way of inspiration. It's such a strong experience that you can't ignore it. For me, it was the encounter with my own shadows, with my inner writer, the discovery of my port of call. If I were to connect writing with babies, I would probably say that it's all about love, passion and patience.
Besides free writing I also enjoy journalism. As a freelance, I am always looking to tell something interesting, what fascinates me, what intrigues me, what attracts me. I enjoyed the research process, navigating along webs, blogs, newspapers, books, interviews and more. I throw all the data, quotations, statistics and pictures in a master document, without any order. Usually, I spend much more time researching than writing and it's difficult to stop. My ending points are boredom and deadlines. When I get bored with the subject and all the sources start repeating the same information I stop. On the other hand, are deadlines. Thank god for deadlines. I hate them as much as I need them. If there were not deadlines, I would probably keep researching and rewriting forever, or perhaps I would never write anything.
Editing, rereading and rewriting are the key elements of the whole writing process. Without them you could never have a perfect piece of work.
I am also a blogger, and I encourag you all to blog. The style is very close and natural, it seems like the author is giving you access to his personal journal. Once you start reading blogs, there is not way out. To blog It's a fantastic exercise to write and to publish without cost. You never know who's reading and the potential is huge.
I started blogging two years ago, first as a way to be connected with my family. It was easier to post my news on the web than to send e-mails with pictures. It was also my imaginary job while I was getting used to the city. The months passed and the blog became more a guide of New York City with ideas, trends and curiosities. On the meantime, great things happened. The readers grew, I begun to write some stories for a magazine in Argentina about NY and I started receiving comments from people I never met, asking for advice, thanking me for the information, enhancing the post with more details and so on.
My fears deserved a different essay. What are my relatives going to think about my words? Are my texts politically correct? The worst enemy is my mind. When I start thinking instead of writing, I block. Then I felt better when I read in Zinsser’s book that a writer will do anything to avoid the act of writing. It is always something more important to do. It 's difficult to explain to the ones who don't write that you can't just seat and get inspired. I often feel trapped in my writing, without a way out. When that happens, I simply stop writing and leave the paper. And as A. Bronson Alcott said, I slept on the writing, took a walk over it, scrutinized it the next morning, review it on the afternoon; digest it after a meal or let it sleep if it's not really good.
Do I have my potential readers in mind? Not really. I am sure that I am writing to pleased myself, but in the path I found out that my enjoyment end also entertaining the readers. Even though, I never send any article without the opinion of the ones I love. Sometimes this means forcing them to read. Watching their faces while they are reading or waiting for feedback are very intense moments. My mom, as all mothers, give me good reviews even if I write a Christmas card or a book, it would be the best one. On the other hand, my father takes the reading duty very seriously. He always has comments and suggestions to make besides all the research he does for me. But on top of all it’s my husband. He is the great believer and my number one fan. If in the future I need an agent, he would be the perfect candidate for the job. All them, have the certainty that I will become a real writer some day.
I took this course to improve my writing skills in English. But in the journey, I found myself searching for my own style or unveiling it. Because, as Zinsser said, there is no style store, is organic to the person doing the writing. Just as it takes time to find yourself as a person, it takes time to find yourself as a stylist. So I am trying to be more myself letting my voice emerge.