When a writer is writing “writing,” everything about the writing is exposed, whether TA intentionally or not. Looking for clues, you can find the same questions that trouble you in the article, and readers who are attentive may be able to find their own answers between the lines.
I’ve always been more interested in dialogue interviews with writers. They are like a looking glass, allowing me to peek into the leopard’s “what is the life of a writer”? Is their life only reading and writing? The stories they describe are so wonderful, what about the stories other than the stories?
Elena Ferrante is an almost invisible writer. She is rather stingy about expressing her attitudes and opinions, except for the necessary literature. She is Maugham’s other extreme. My interest in her started with The Shards , but The Shards failed to fully feed my curiosity. So after the publication of Accidental Creation , I let myself fall into her world again. But this time, the question I want to know is clear: What is Ferrante’s writing like?
Writing, what is it for a writer? Wallace would describe it as “addiction,” and without this outlet, somewhere in the body and mind malfunctions. This addiction is described by Ferrante as “necessary writing”: publishing can be delayed, but writing cannot be delayed. Anyone who wants to write must write. 1
If you do a SWOT analysis of writing, Ferrante’s four quadrants will almost fill the cons column: fear of submitting; fear of writing when you don’t want to write; fear of writing an article that offends readers ; Fear that the work will end without perfection; Fear of losing confidence; Fear of giving up. But in the other three columns, Ferrante listed only one: curiosity. In the end my curiosity prevailed. 2
Does it feel familiar? It’s the same thing Ross did in “Friends” , he’s tossing between Rachel and Jolie, he lists a long list of Rachel’s faults, but at the end he lists only one good thing: because she’s Rachel. Even though writing has a million reasons to be afraid, you still choose it because it is writing. The joy of writing dissipates the anxiety of publishing. 3
If writing is just about necessity, that’s a bit of a stretch, especially for most of the average you and me. After becoming a freelance writer, I deeply realized the need for regular writing. But to put it bluntly, writing is a fairly boring process, with little stimulation, the only stimulation comes from your occasional flow of ideas, flow of ideas, and smooth choice of words and sentences. But in most cases, it is, as Ferrante describes it, “water in a well,” a sentence-by-sentence salvage, a difficult process. In the process of writing, you are carried away, interrupted, come back, and start again. Writing is really painful, so why do we still have to work hard in front of the computer for hours, days, or even longer, choosing to continue writing?
Ferrante’s answer is straightforward: Even when you’re not writing, your brain is constantly making up words and sentences, and the need to create is always there, it’s urgent. 4 The writer’s sadomasochistic love for writing made them choose to continue writing. It is true that extreme creation can make people crazy, but passion does not guarantee that the work will be handed down. Looking at it this way, writing has the meaning of a lifetime, it is a long practice that grows with you. Since it is a lifetime, of course you can’t stop, you must continue to write.
what can i write?
About writing, the most frequently asked questions, besides “why should I write”, is “then what can I write”. There is a sentence that accurately summarizes the situation of all creators: “There is nothing more terrifying than facing a blank sheet of paper.”
“What can I write?” is the cross in the heart of every person who practices writing . This cross is quite light for Ferrante: I think everything can be written, and there is nothing I am reluctant to write. Even when I realize that something in my head is actually catching up with what I don’t want to write, I force myself to write it out. 5
“Forcing yourself to write” is very necessary in the writing process. Not only because you will be lazy, but also because inertia will hold you back. Before becoming a copywriter I hardly ever forced myself to write. This means that there are only limited moments in my life when fragments of my life are actively connected to form a coherent thought. This process is not pleasant, and introspection is always accompanied by a trace of pain: “How could this be? Ah, so it is.” Later, after practicing writing every day, this kind of introspection became normal. I clearly saw my limitations in writing: limited knowledge stock, and a few fixed mindsets. You get hollowed out quickly, so you need to keep replenishing. Reading makes me want to write, and writing makes me want to read. 6 Ferrante’s description precisely summarizes the closed loop embedded in writing: reading, thinking, writing .
From Ferrante, I see this inwardness of writing, which is an inward act, not an outward one. You might object: No, writers also write with readers in mind. The work of course requires the intervention of the reader, but that is after the writing is done. When we started to create freely, we didn’t need to consider whether readers would be happy to see it, we just needed to let people see people’s situation clearly without filters through fictional stories . 7 There are two qualifiers here: no filter, human condition. “Without filter” is extracted from the reader, and “human situation” is extracted from the social environment. They are all accompanied by deliberate bystanders that are actively chosen.
Thinking this way, when a person writes, he is writing introspection. Not to please others, and not to please oneself, it just keeps people introspective: the writer’s introspection when he writes, and the reader’s introspection when he reads. Where are the standards for introspection? Not just Ferrante, but Sylvia Plath has said: everything in life can be written, as long as you have the guts to do it, and the imagination and self-doubt of improvisation. 8
Does writing require talent?
When you start practicing writing, a voice comes in frequently: “Am I not gifted?” Does writing require talent? This is a question that has been discussed for thousands of years, but no conclusion has been reached today. Naturally, I do not expect to find the so-called answer here in Ferrante. Ferrante himself has said it: everything from Shakespeare to Proust has been written, and it is a waste of my effort to write. 9
But whether you haven’t started writing yet, or you’re writing, this question will follow you like a ghost, and thinking about it early will at least make the writing process bearable and not give up easily. Thirty-year-old wisdom has told me that doing anything will involve some talent, but there are people who are wasting talent, and there are still many such people today. Does talent matter?
Take writing as an example, what is the gift of writing? Excellent writing skills? Is Maugham’s writing wonderful? Of course, its concise and wise words will make you laugh with pain. But he has publicly stated more than once that his language is bland, his articles are full of clichés, and they are not as good as he hoped. He also spent a lot of effort on this: because of his poor vocabulary, he took a pen and paper to the British Museum to write down the names and descriptions of strange treasures; in order to study the style of “Holy Death” , he composed Transcribe paragraphs and try to write them out from memory. He later concluded: I really have no talent for lyricism and metaphor, and trying to do things that are not easy for me wears me out. 10
I especially like this example, because it has clearly stated to me that talent is not the most important thing in writing. Like me, Ferrante is on the side of the majority: talent is important, but to achieve a career, it needs to be nurtured. However, in Far Enough Talent , what I prefer is that Ferrante introduces a less often mentioned, but deadly enough factor: luck. Talent alone is not enough, nor is it enough to have the opportunity to nurture and perfect it. The creator must have luck. Yes, it just depends on luck. 11
Luck is less talked about today, presumably because it makes one feel viscerally powerless. It’s uncontrollable, and it can instantly make many people discouraged. But Ferrante’s definition of “luck” is vivid : someone can be very self-disciplined, use his wisdom and talent for a lifetime, and shape a world of his own, but he has never tried a qualitative leap, and luck is that leap. 12 The cruelty of luck is plain and unfortunate indeed. Nothing can guarantee us success, not even talent and hard work, and luck is more elusive than the future.
So what can you do as a writer in such a situation? You can only work hard without asking about the future. 13 You have no choice but to create . This is a sad and lonely answer, but it is sober and powerful.
Writer’s innate ability to manage time and energy?
Regarding writers, there is a question that has been bothering me for a long time: how do they manage their time and energy?
I have such doubts because I see a paradox in writers: on the one hand, they need to invest real time, even a lot of time, in their creation. But on the other hand, if they just bury their heads in creation and don’t experience life, the texture and thickness of the works seem to be a little less interesting. It seems that becoming a writer already requires you to have a natural time and energy management ability.
Unfortunately, in “Insomnia,” Ferrante first poured me a bowl of cold water and told me it wasn’t a problem with her. Writers can also suffer from insomnia, and like ordinary people, TAs can’t get rid of the destruction and ravages of people’s spirits at night. Ferrante in “Insomnia” will not sleep all night. In the days after pregnancy and childbirth, she even lost the time to write, and she hardly slept very much when she was physically and mentally exhausted. This kind of life really has nothing to do with efficient creation, but it is quite similar to you and me being busy and full of trivialities every day.
Of course, in this situation you can find a lot of books and medicines for help in the market today, because our society tends to tell you: this is a disease, and you need to be cured. Ferrante did indeed seek help from doctors and sleeping pills, so was her problem resolved in the end? No. But she seems to have reconciled with insomnia later, choosing not to force it anymore: sleep when she is sleepy, and keep reading and writing when she is not sleepy. Staying up all night was no longer a problem she needed to correct. It also kept her state, according to her: holding up pretty well. Like most writers I’ve read, she has her own routine and creative rhythm, which you and I cannot copy or emulate.
At least Ferrante is not an efficient master of time and energy management. With this article, I once again proved a self-consistent theory: when you no longer compete with yourself, your time and energy will be on its own. way to play its role.
Finally, we return to the question posed at the beginning of the article: what is Ferrante’s writing like? The answer I found was this: it was hard, uninterrupted, necessary, and future-proof writing. In this way, I agree with Ferrante’s summary of himself: it is pointless to waste so much time writing, and as a writer, you also need to give reasons to explain why you waste your life. 14
- Accidental Creation , [Italy] Elena Ferrante, People’s Literature Publishing House
- Maugham’s Sixty Autobiography , [English] Maugham, Harbin Publishing House
- Celebrities and their wardrobes , [English] Terri Newman, People’s Literature Publishing House
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