I met poet, novelist, and playwright Gary Langford through a long time friend of mine who met Gary years ago in Australia when they were both young men. In the years since, Gary has written in many genres, run a University Creative Writing Program, taught theater, and much, much more. Here he breaks down writing wisdom in the form of fragmentary writing. Each bit will register with you and build your confidence and commitment to your writing. If you didn’t have teachers who thought and taught like Gary, consider him one of your teachers now and proceed.
Creative Writing: Carpe diem, quam minimum, credula postero
(Seize the day, put no trust in the morrow)
-Horace, Ode 1, xi
by Gary Langford
Understanding = comfort.
Comfort is a key to how we travel, both within and outside ourselves. What relaxes us? What allows us to try expanding knowledge and ourselves without feeling we are subject to public ruin, or personal exposure?
The more we write, the more we will understand the creative pastiche of knowledge and revelation. Skill is describing what we wish to and disguising what we wish to, such as crossing the gender of characters or changing time and locations.
Beginner writers often say, “I can’t express how I feel,” or, “words are inadequate,” or, “you don’t understand.” These can be conscious evasions. They also can be a fear of revelation, which is why writers learn to maintain their truth in an imaginative way.
Indeed, writing has long revealed to me how people can get out of any trap life has put them into, and this includes the largest group of writers, those who will never be published, but who will use the expression of self to diminish any burden of self.
Have faith in yourself when opening doors to your house of memories.
I visited a boy’s high school to teach poetry. The students’ body language told me how they felt learning about POE TRY: the end of the world was nigh.
I showed them one of my poems from The Pest Exterminator’s Shakespeare.
At 5 they said he was dumb.
At 10 they said he was insolent.
At 15 they said rebellious.
At 20 they said he was destructive.
At 25 they said in a courtroom
You have fulfilled your promise.
Reading the poem rescued them from the sea of disregard.
In art there is always a way out if needed.
Keep in mind that the excitement and fear that can come from writing what is close to you usually helps remedy other ills in life, even if the process may bring a hidden event to fruition, as the longer you leave it, the harder it is to deal with when it does come out. And come out it will.
In other words, writing in its variant styles can be a different form of medicine, which produces a change in the chemistry of thought, and can throw off minor ailments that regularly occur in all our lives.
In the room of opinion – like anywhere else – if you are asked what you think of someone’s work, say so.
Make it touched with a bit of diplomacy, since many young writers (writing knowledge, not age) are not confident, including the ones full of brash and ‘who cares?’
Keep in mind there are givers and takers in all facets of life, as is reflected in human behavior. One is much easier to deal with – and be – than the other, whether in a social or personal sense. A piece of graffiti, left by a city council near where I live, for years said: “There is happiness in your kindness.”
A beautiful lie is better than a poor truth.
What is the truth when the perception varies from person to person? The difference is one entertains people and does not cause anyone to suffer. The other one is usually used to have someone suffer, fine where necessary, not so fine where it is done for vindictive behavior on the basis of putting someone down to build your ego up.
Drafting = importance = exactitude = release.
Writing can be found in your House of Memories, such as writing about feeling safe in your own room, wherein you select people you have known who you trust or distrust and describe their behavior, not stating your feelings of trust or distrust. A simple ending is a knock on the door and the person you least or most wish to see is standing there. Or you do this on your iPhone. Who is it? What happens?
Writing can be found in letters or cards you have received. Choose one and write down why it is important to you. Avoid saying it’s important, as there may not be much to describe. Try to show why it is important through description, leaving conclusions to the reader.
Another way of exercising (or exorcizing if it’s something you wish to escape in your House of Memories) is to make a wish list, writing down what you or another wants to have. End with the most important wish.
Writing can help a person emerge from the paralysis of thinking they can never get what is important to them.
Great writers can be less than brilliant spellers, but have a fascination with words, along with an ability to conduct language, as opposed to someone who can spell well, but not write creatively.
Of course, the more you write, the more your spelling and expression improves.
It is worth keeping in mind that successful writers are those who never give up because the weather is inclement.
Computer spelling and grammar looks at changes in lexicography and these vary too. Dictionaries are never short of the changing face of the lexicon. Indeed, the more rigid a language lexicon is, the more rigid the society is likely to be.
Don’t wait for brilliant thoughts to arrive as the years may go by.
It’s credited the French writer, Stendhal, did this and a decade went by before he stopped waiting to begin writing.
Two things need to happen to become a writer you are comfortable with: 1. you wake up in the morning and writing is like breathing; and 2. you survive in the marketplace of writing, however you wish to define this. The latter also relates to the sheer freedom of your language as you start to grow in confidence.
Creative imagination is a key in avoiding the trap of a closed mind, whether to relieve anxiety or depression, or any other emotion.
The stronger the idea at the center of your work, the stronger the work will be.
Writing sews the seeds.
Writing grows the thoughts.
Your words are sung under the lyric tree.
I am for you. You are for me.
Writing can help the blind to see and the deaf to hear.
May Joy be your cousin.
Gary Langford, Teacher writer