A little catechism goes a long way. What do I mean by such an expression? Catechism is typically instruction offered in religious traditions to children and new converts for a basic understanding of shared beliefs.
The religious association of catechism probably came to mind when I first thought of how some pursue fiction writing. I had just returned from a week at the Wesleyan Writers Conference in Middletown, Connecticut, and felt I had received enough "instruction" from Robert Olen Butler during several days to last a long time. Mr. Butler had just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and I willingly accepted what he said about the craft of fiction as a starting point.
What I found puzzling, though, was how other attendees were ready to spend more money and time and, in effect, binge on writing conferences. Wesleyan was only one of several some would attend that year, not to mention subsequent returns in later years. This yearning for inside knowledge, for validation--not to mention those aspiring for an MFA--left me shaking my head.
If the path to literary success were only that simple.
I was lucky not to fall for the near religious faith that if I connected with the right conference, the right MFA program, the right writing guru, if you will, my success at crafting noteworthy fiction would be so much easier and certain.
One reason I didn't fall for the idea more instruction was better was I was fortunate to receive Ray Bradbury's essay on "Zen in the Art of Writing" from a published writer friend after the Conference. He said read Bradbury and just write 1,000 words every day, no excuses. Quantity first, quality eventually follows.
So mule-like determination & discipline became my watchwords as I've gone on to publish short stories, essays, and write four novels.
For me, there's no other formula for success as a writer beyond the personal trial and error of finding what works and what doesn't. It might be my personality, but to me creativity is finding one's own path, at one's own pace. I would not fit in with any MFA program. [I also shun writers' groups for similar reasons.] Why fall for a creativity paradigm [an oxymoron, of course] of someone else's making? Why adopt the faith of any advanced catechism, if one can instead develop originality?
Yes, some catechism, some basic orientation to the tools and vocabulary of a creative pursuit will get you off on the good foot, but too much catechism too often is too much and can only hobble and stunt artistic growth.
Image credit: google images: goodreads.com
Read Charlie Dickinson's
story collection, The Cat
at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.
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