07 June

Developing Your Creative Ear...


Photo, A Poetic and Powerful Life

Success on this earth sadly coincides with that wives tale your mother told you as a wee tot...

"Practice makes perfect."

I seriously would like to punch out the first wife who uttered that truism, not because she was wrong, but because she was right, as every time I hear it, well, punching something springs to my frustrated mind.

Hey, I never said I was perfect.

As that first wife rightfully knew, in any endeavor, practice is what's needed for the apprentice. Tons and tons, truck loads, even. I don't care if you weld metal things, do wood joinery, or, say, weirdly enough, want to finish writing a book. That damn adage pops up and splashes righteous goo in your face that CANNOT be washed off. Crikey! So annoying...

But here's what happens when you DO practice writing, every day, and for the rest of your life: 

Over time, you develop what experienced wordsmiths call the Creative Ear. And this skill ONLY develops while a writer writes. Not when he's waxing poetic smack in front of hangers-on at some high-brow cocktail lounge... (Okay, that last visual may have been too specific, and too me. Again, I'm not perfect.)

The Creative Ear is the ability to better, easier, hone-in on the best writing ideas, the best phraseology, the best literary delivery for any piece. And the more you write, the better that intuitive skill develops, and the less post-draft editing crying jags you'll have to endure.

[An Aside: This is the main reason why I'm so against the "pantser" writing mentality — the post-draft edits. I'm of Northern-Irish descent, and we Irishmen are inherently lazy. (Stop throwing rotten tomatoes and let me finish, my fellow Pot o' Golders!) What I mean to say is that we do NOT like to do things twice when once will suffice. It cuts into our after-hours drinking time. (Again, stop with the tomatoes!) And by twice, I mean the 30 BILLION TIMES pantsers WILL have to rewrite sentences, reshape the plot line, reformat character personality traits/motivation in their schizophrenic, airy-fairy first draft attempt because they had no pre-determined parameters. Why a person desires to get lost in a forest and die of hypothermia, and his emaciated corpse be nibbled on by centipedes when a perfectly good hiking path is on offer, I'll never know. Aside tangent is over. Whew! I feel better now... ;-)]

Back to the Creative Ear...

When a writer does not regularly start, work on and finish sentences, paragraphs, chapters, stories, his creative intuition for what works and what doesn't, doesn't become refined. It's like a blind man who doesn't practice walking with a stick and feeling for objects, to know what's what and where things belong. That Second Sense skill must be worked on to be enhanced.

With new writers, they aren't capable of intuitively sensing when a sentence or phrase or chapter arc has been best achieved, if they haven't failed and succeeded many, many times in the attempt. 

This literary "blindness" I have often demonstrated, not by teaching, but by showing. This is not something I like to do, as I never want to stain my way onto another artist, but the Creative Ear is not a tangible entity, a normal material skill. I can tell new writers over and over again what makes a good sentence, a good scene. They will nod in agreement, but still not deliver the goods in their own works. Their sentences, scenes will be wordy, convoluted, until I simply take one of their sentences or paragraphs, and rewrite it, and show them the difference. Then, I'll get,

"Oh, that's way better! Why didn't I see that way of writing it before?"

It's simply the development of the Creative Ear that gets a writer from apprentice to master, from a blind man who is lost to finally "seeing" the way. And other than constant practice, that ability will not mature, and a world of edit hurt will remain in that writer's future.

No one is born having a fully-developed Creative Ear. Yes, there can be those >1% prodigies, but I assure you, you and I are not one. The Creative Ear cannot be taught. A person can be taught grammatical rules, form and function, but that intuitive sense is simply:

God-given artistic/creative slant + constant and unending practice = literary success, the ability to sense a well-crafted work.

[Another Aside: people who scoff at writers who edit a passage as they write the first draft haven't a clue as to what a mature Creative Ear can achieve in this instance. Such a skilled wordsmith isn't watering down the first draft passion; more so, he's seeing immediately how that draft can be worded as he writes, eliminating a huge percentage of edit rewrites at draft end. This isn't talked about much by writers who use this method because they know it's not industry accepted. But if you do a search, you will find well-celebrated similar method authors, who have far fewer meltdowns come the editing phase. Second aside tangent over and out.]

Your Creative Ear.

Accept that it exists in you right now, but that it needs severe practice to mature.

Every day. In attempts which fail, and succeed.

Not ruminating...

Not entertaining your imagined muse...

Not waxing poetic with your tribe... will help.

Just the hard, slogging work of constantly throwing together words to form a cohesive and effective idea.

[Last Aside: that's another reason why I call writing, as in any learned endeavor, work, not mere fun.]

HOMEWORK: Sit thyself down, and make this Day One of further developing your Creative Ear. Write something, anything. Just write.

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