Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

Location: North Carolina, United States

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Begin at the Beginning/Middle/End

'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'

A mostly irrelevant quote, courtesy of Lewis Carroll- I just can't help it! Anyhow...

I apologize for my extended absence; again, school has taken more than its share of my time. I'm currently preparing to play the Baker in our choir's production of Into The Woods (certainly one of my favorite musicals- I love fairy tales, and Into The Woods is quite the creative fusion of several popular fairy tales, courtesy of Stephen Sondheim). However, though the blog has suffered, I am past my writer's block (thank goodness), having written a few sonnets this past month. Anyhow, enough about me-

A brief first point- Dan Schneider notes two distinctly different types of writers- sculptors and builders. A sculptor writes to excess about an idea, then chips away at their piece, removing or reworking unnecessary or ineffective portions until the final form is reached. A builder writes more carefully from the get-go, often making changes during the creation of the first draft, and is left with very little excess to trim once the piece reaches its completion. Neither is better- the two are simply different. As a point of curiosity, I am a builder.

We've now established that there are two types of writers. Now, a second point- a work of art begins with an idea. What a remarkably dumb and obvious thing to say, Neil! True. But, where do you place the idea? A piece can start from any point- a standard A-B-C progression isn't the only way to go. Let's narrow the scope and look at poetry, for two reasons: firstly, I know more about poetry than I do about other art forms, and secondly, poetry is written (abstract building blocks are easier to shuffle around), and it's also tighter and (generally) shorter than prose.

Just as there are different types of writers, there are different ways to begin a poem. The first fragment of a poem isn't necessarily the first line; a great idea for an ending or middle line or couplet also makes for a fine starting point. A C-A-B or B-C-A progression in the creation of a poem is just as good as an A-B-C progression; our job as writers is, after all, to rearrange letters of the alphabet ~_^ While I certainly can't pick out the original fragment of another person's poem, I posit that different writers have a tendency to start in different places. I tend towards coming up with end lines or couplets, then starting from the top, with the final phrase already in place. Occasionally, the original phrase doesn't even survive; the entire poem at its completion may even have a completely different meaning than initially intended. However, that's where my starting point usually lies, and the most difficult part of writing a poem, at least for me, is beginning. Once I have something to work off of, the task is much less daunting.

The differences in approach that are imperceptible to the audience contribute to the uniqueness of a quality writer's work. I'm going to leave off with that statement, with every intention of elaborating in my next post. Take care 'til next,



Blogger Jessica Schneider said...

I knew you were a builder. For poetry I am a sculptor. I'll be that's what Anthony is as well. But I am definitely a builder for prose.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Out of curiosity- I know you can tell that I'm a builder from critiquing several of my poems, but do you think there any indicators as to which category a writer fits, if you are only presented with a final draft, with no previous knowledge of the poet? I can't tell, but then, I'm not very well-read yet.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Jessica Schneider said...

I don't really think there is any way to tell other than if you know that writer's practices. My guess that you were a "builder" is based on our email exchanges and what you told me. Just stumbling upon them I wouldn't have known otherwise.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

Alright- just checking since that characteristic is something I figured was wholly internal (with no way to discern heads or tails having an in). Dan may have mentioned this before, but is he a builder or a sculptor? I'd venture that he's a builder, but that's more of a guess than anything else.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Jessica Schneider said...

Dan is a builder in both poems and prose.

6:24 PM  
Blogger cosmoetica said...

For the record, there is a third sort of writer- the masturbator. That is the writer who just ejaculates whatever on to the page, and lets it sit.

There are a surprisingly high percentage of these sorts. They are would-be sculptors w/o the chisel, and would-be builders w/o the patience.

I build because I am naturally economic in things- I was raised by Great Depression Era parents, and don't like waste- of time, effort, ink, or paper.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

I suppose such writers occasionally write something worthwhile (if they have some talent), but never achieve consistency?

12:07 AM  
Blogger Jessica Schneider said...

If the writer has talent there might be a nice image or three but it will be surrounded by so much garbage that it will be utterly drowned out.

7:35 AM  

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