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In This issue... Thoughts on Creative Writing - by Muli wa Kyendo


Cover - Fundamental Theories of Ethnic Conflict
Thoughts on Creative Writing - Myth, Values, Theory

Many writers would agree with Norman Podhoretz who, in his autography, Making It, writes, “Writing is one of the most mysterious human activities. No one, least of all, psychologists, knows the laws by which it moves or refuses to move.” ... (continued below)

Thoughts on Creative Writing

by Muli wa Kyendo - Managing Editor, Author-me.com - mkyendo@gmail.com

Many writers would agree with Norman Podhoretz who, in his autography, Making It, writes, “Writing is one of the most mysterious human activities. No one, least of all, psychologists, knows the laws by which it moves or refuses to move.”

Podhoretz, who is quoted by the British writer, John Braine in his book, Writing a Novel, further states, “the poem, the story, the essay and even.... a book review....is already there before word is ever put on paper and the act of writing is finding the key that will unlock the floodgates and let the flow begin.”

If writing cannot be controlled by the will, Podhoretz writes, it can be controlled by “the magical key.” That magical key, according to him, is “the tone of voice, the only tone of voice in which the particular piece of writing will permit itself to be written.”

To me, this is a roundabout way of saying that, when you are inspired, you get a flow of ideas and words whose source you don’t, no, you can’t, comprehend. In some cultures, the act of creating, as in a story, is referred to a “cutting”. You cut a story. That implies that the story exists on its own, flowing like a river. The “flowing” story has joints marking the beginning of a story and a tone of voice that exists within it. The story writer “cuts” a piece. The writer must cut the piece at the point where there is a joint, together with the voice, for it to flow as a good story.

John Brane is of the view that you don’t come to a dead end because you don’t know what to write about. You are well aware of what you are going to write about. “You come to a dead stop because you haven’t yet hit upon the way to write it. It isn’t a question of style, of the way in which you arrange words; it isn’t construction. The phrase to hang on to is the tone of voice. You can’t put it into any other words...”

All writers have a moment they can remember when they were overwhelmed, no, possessed, by a desire to write a story, a poem or even a review. They were in the flow of the river of the story. At the point of the joint and the tone. The words and the structure came to them as though from a source that was alien to them.

For me, a remarkable experience came when I was writing the play, The Woman of Nzaui. It was a time I was temporarily in the red – that blight of many writers! I felt overwhelmed by a desire to write the play as I sat at my typewriter – there were no computers then. Within a few hours, I was done. Then within a few weeks, we had assembled a group of experienced actors. And, in equally short time, the play was staged at a national theatre before a select audience that included prominent politicians and academics. Needless to say, I raised more money than I expected – and the play received fantastic reviews in the media.

Postscript: Every effort I have made to “improve” the tone and flow of the play’s narrative structure has failed. I am encouraged though by the British poet Oscar Wilde who, apparently faced with a similar situation, humorously said, “I spent all morning taking out a comma and all afternoon putting it back in again.”

See Muli wa Kyendo's definitive study - Fundamental Theories of Ethnic Conflict - Explaining the Root Causes of Ethnic and Racial Hate - African Books Collective
For a background on this book, covering myth values versus theory, see his article "Back Story" on Author-me.com
(To publish a copy of this article, please give credit to the source.)

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--Bruce Cook, Publisher


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Publishing New Writers,

April, 2023 (vol. 24, no. 4)


Dr. Bruce L. Cook
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Elgin, IL 60123

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