Monday, August 06, 2007

writer's submersion - acclimatize yourself to the depths

J. Mark Bertrand writes at The Master's Artist blog:

What novelists need more than anything is the capacity for immersion. They need enough imagination not only to create the story but also to sustain it. The manuscript must be finished, and this can't be done in one sitting, so the novelist will have to immerse himself time and again like a diver. When he comes up for air, the work is temporarily abandoned, and can't resume until he dives to the same depth where he left off. The writer needs time, yes -- but he needs lung-power too.

Bertrand goes on to explain how this ability to immerse oneself in writing actually begins with the ability to immerse into story as a reader.
Lung capacity is not innate. You build it up over time. Avid swimmers do this without much thought -- it's a by-product of their passion. The same is true for readers. Grow up with books and you develop a natural ability to submerge yourself in the story. You seek out challenging reads for the sheer pleasure of testing yourself

Mark suggests this reading disability is being fed by dumbed-down fiction. I'd say it also happens because of the way we prefer to read most everything these days -- in bullet-sized bites. Reading stuff on the internet surely feeds that tendency.

The solution he suggests for the reader is self-discipline.

He gives a solution for writers too:
My guess is that the writers who have trouble with immersion probably suffer as readers too. This is why one of the best bits of writing advice is to be a better reader. It's the closest thing to a panacea in the craft. But a second is discipline to force yourself to write for hours. Struggle along, even if the results are not exhilarating, so that in time you will build creative capacity.

Read all of "Lung Capacity for Novelists."

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