Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taking Clear Stands

There is a notion of ``taking clear'' stands in life as a way of knowing who we are. I have already quoted, and discussed, a similar concept of ``being specific'' from both the acting book (The Actor's Art and Craft) and the writing book (Writing Down the Bones). Here are quotes from the writing book, the chapter, ``Make Statements and Answer Questions,'' that discuss two related ideas. Make clear statements and answer questions.

In the early seventies there was a study done on women and language that affected me very deeply and also affected my writing. One of the things the study said was that women add on qualifiers to their statements. ... In their sentence structure women were always looking for reinforcement for their feelings and opinions. They didn't just make statements and stand behind them. .... They needed encouragement from outside themselves. [Similar findings for minorities.]

Another thing women did in their speech was to use a lot of words like {\it perhaps}, {\it maybe}, {\it somehow}. Indefinite modifiers. ... ---p.110

The world isn't always black and white. A person may not be sure if she can go some place, but it is important, especially for a beginning writer, to make clear, assertive statements. ... Making statements is practice in trusting your own mind, in learning to stand up with your thoughts. ---pp.110-111

After I read the article, I went home and looked at a poem I had just written. I made myself take out all vague, indefinite words and phrases. It felt as though I were pulling towels off my body, and I was left standing naked after a shower, exposing who I really was and how I felt. It was scary for the first time, but it felt good. It made the poem much better.

But while you are practicing writing, do not worry if you see yourself using those indefinite words. Don't condemn yourself or be critical. Just be aware of it. Keep writing. When you go back over it, you can cut them out.

Another thing you should watch out for are questions. If you can write a question, you can answer it. When you are writing, if you write a question, that is fine. But immediately go to a deeper level inside yourself and answer it in the next line. ---p.111

Don't be afraid to answer the questions. You will find endless resources inside yourself. Writing is the act of burning through the fog in your mind. Don't carry the fog out on paper. Even if you are not sure of something, express it as though you know yourself. With this practice you eventually will. ---p.112

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