Here is my advice about writing, wrapped up in a distraction concerning 30-50 feral hogs.
The crime writer Elmore Leonard had ten rules and the most important to him was: “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”
He wanted his writing to be real and direct, not fanciful or showy.
My rules concern the everyday business of sitting down and trying to write fiction. The sensible rule, the one passed on to young writers or students who want to write, is brisk: just do it.
That’s the only advice writers need, as without sitting down and writing – something, anything – you can’t be a writer. Instead you merely fancy yourself a writer. Take that from someone who spent years in those unproductive pastures.
My other tips concern such time-frittering diversions as Twitter and Netflix. Distraction and prevarication are the enemy of getting words down. So, too, is getting down words other than the ones you intend to write.
If you want to write novels, don’t write a blog for heaven’s sake. That blog will be fun, it will be writing/journalism, but it won’t be the novel you are meant to be writing.
Avoiding Twitter and Netflix is good and important advice, if only I could heed it. My attention often drifts from writing dialogue, say, to the bottomless chatter of Twitter. For its faults, and all the incidental nastiness, I like Twitter; I even the incidental nastiness when it is directed at the ‘right’ targets.
This is where those feral hogs come into the picture. Anyone who remains innocent of Twitter can excuse themselves for feeling confused at the juncture.
Certain themes or memes run wild on Twitter, and last night it was the turn of those 30-50 feral hogs.
The day had been filled with sombre or angry reflections on the two mass shootings in the US. People expressed horror at what had happened, and despair at the chance of the US doing anything about gun deaths. They reacted with incredulity to Trump’s rhetoric about how there should be less hate in the US; they cried and shouted; they shared their despair.
And then a man in Arkansas asked a simple question alien to anyone who lives an urban life. In response to calls for a ban on assault weapons, he tweeted: “How do I kill the 30-50 feral hogs that run into my yard with 3-5 mins while my small kids play?”
William McNabb reportedly identifies as a libertarian. In American terms, he is likely to be wedded to owning high-powered rifles (as were said to have been used in the shootings in El Paso and Dayton).
Those feral pigs rooted all over Twitter, inspiring mockery and puzzlement. Anyone joining the party late wondered why on earth the Twitter-sphere was obsessed with feral pigs.
But McNabb did seem to have a practical point: how do you control the rampant wild hogs that are a problem in rural American south?
Maybe a gun is the only answer; perhaps guns do have legitimate uses. And then I remembered the humble fence. If McNabb got his children to play in a safely separate compound, those wild hogs wouldn’t present a threat. Maybe he just prefers guns to fences.
There you have it: incidental advice about writing, trampled over by a band of feral hogs.
Now I need to get on with writing and avoiding Twitter or Facebook.