Returning to the classics for inspiration?

@anawar (2404)
United States
June 19, 2010 6:13pm CST
The internet changed the way we write. It's all about things like: making every word count, watch adjective and adverb use, parse it out until there's little left to the original draft. If you want to be published, you comply, that's life. Sometimes though, the frustration eats at me and I return to classic literature. The writing is tight, flows like an idyllic river, and entrances me. Do I ask myself - hmm, did he use too many adverbs? - did he need that sentence? No, I just read. It reminds me how easy writing was before I had to rethink my thoughts. Editing is one thing; I'll do it a million times, knowing I'll never be as classy as the classical writers who inspire me. But, rereading them helps me focus again on what I write naturally, before I had to follow the new rules. What helps you focus your thoughts? Have you read any classics lately, or do you think I'm nuts for suggesting it?
5 people like this
8 responses
@celticeagle (158591)
• Boise, Idaho
21 Jun 10
I think the classics are a great thing to experience. I love To Kill A Mockingbird. But, I think just reading anything you can get your hands on is very important. Read all types of literature. Even ones you don't particularly like. Just to get the feel and to the the genre and so on. Edit the work. Do a critique on it. Write and edit your work. As many times as it takes. Ask for people's critiques. Especially people you respect and/or admire. Focusing my thoughts? I go to the park or the forest. Someplace I enjoy and I write.
@anawar (2404)
• United States
26 Jun 10
Actually, that's very good advice, and I do get your point. However, I'm not sure I can read something I don't like. Then there's the famous four letter word that enslaves all authors. Edit. Edit. Edit. There are some good websites that provide feedback for writing. It's usually the reader who helps the most. I wish I still lived in New York; there were so many places to walk and reflect, dream and create. In Florida, it's nothing but hot. Blek.
1 person likes this
@celticeagle (158591)
• Boise, Idaho
27 Jun 10
Hmm. You should read things you don't like. It is an important part of forming your style. And then critique what you don't like and why. The more you can understand what you don't like the better you will find that can put words to paper and write with gusto. And editing is very important in your own work. It shouldn't inslave you, it should free you. Try taking a different tack and view it from a standpoint of picking the negative out of your work by doing these things. If you would ever like my feedback or advice on any of your work I would be happy to do so. I have done so before for people and when they got their work in to a pro it came back with the same advice and feedback. You can have a refuge wherever you are. Put the things you love around you. Have the type of music you enjoy playing,etc. Put some thought into it and you can have it anywhere.
• United States
25 Jun 10
Actually, I kind of hate most of the books my English teachers called classics. It wasn't anything against the writing itself, but it was in the stories that they held. To me, story is more important than style of writing. If I don't like the story, then I don't like the book... regardless of how well it was written. But I also think that good writing is a matter of opinion, so "well written" is kind of a subjective term to me. So no, never gone to the classics for inspiration. I've gone to books though. Just not books that have been labeled as "classics".
@anawar (2404)
• United States
26 Jun 10
I think there's lots of people out there who will agree with you. It can be hard to appreciate an author when the story is simply not to your taste. Well-written? Is there really such a thing? As you said, it's a matter of opinion. I'm kind of the opposite to you. The story is the beginning for me, but if I don't like the style, I'm out. As long as we're all reading something . . . there's hope.
1 person likes this
@anawar (2404)
• United States
27 Jun 10
Do you feel lost after you finish your book? I wander around, feeling alone and abandoned by the characters. I can't start reading a new book right away because I like to let the story "soak into me." Also, it feels as if I'm betraying the author if I put his/her book aside for another, without the proper passage of time. You're right; you can't compare books according to genre. I can't imagine reading a "vampire book," but they're tremendously popular. I'm a CIA/Special Ops/Sci-fi girl myself, but if I'm desperate I might pick up a romance. Blek. I'm with you on the texting-speak. I always have to ask the person what they're trying to say. Sure, it's a shortcut, but it has no place in any formal writing arena. Okay, I finished my spy book this afternoon, so I have to wait until at least tomorrow to start another. I'm not that eager to begin because people left me some books that aren't that appealing to me, but it's better than nothing. I do go on and on . . .
1 person likes this
• United States
26 Jun 10
Yeah... I find myself finishing books and kind of biting my tongue. I end up saying something to the tune of, "Well, it WAS brilliant. But I hated it." Beyond proper spelling and grammar, I don't think there's really a way to define what's well written. It's like one person saying they like mysteries and the other saying that they like romance. Is one really better than the other or is it a matter of personal taste? These days when I tell someone their work is well-written I usually mean, "WOW! You didn't write in texting-speak! You choose the actual English language!" But like you said, as long as we're reading something. I love to read, and I couldn't go a day without diving into the pages of a book.
@AnythngArt (3302)
• United States
20 Jun 10
I think you are correct about enjoying the natural flow, even if that means very extensive details that you find in classic story writing. In my own writing, I notice that I am always going for 400 words even when I could shorten it up or make it much longer. That's what the Internet has done to me. However, I still read a lot of novels and appreciate some good writing.
@anawar (2404)
• United States
26 Jun 10
Yes, you sound like an internet victim. I'm so sorry this happened to you. As long as you can still enjoy the process of reading, then all is not lost. (Now we only have to find some good novels.) I commend you though on your ability to conform. Me, either my mind blanks, or I write a book.
@kun2349 (23381)
• Singapore
21 Jun 10
I dun read, and that's one thing for sure.. INstead, it's something beautiful, smooth and natural, which catches my attention.. Be it a phrase among thousands of words, those phrases will never be able to escape my eyes, and i will definitely be looking a 2nd look at them.. hehe ^_^ I do like classics, because it's beautifully written, and smooth flowing.. Much as it's not as straight forward, or simple, but the way those sentences are make up, using that words, is simply amazing.. haha =D It seems like going back in time, and the feel is definitely different.. haha
@kun2349 (23381)
• Singapore
28 Jun 10
lol =D Well, the world is changing.. Gone are those artistic way of writing, for everybody in these days, are rushing for time.. They want something simple and understandable... as such, writers can only be accustoming themselves to the needs of consumers at the expense of their free writing.. lol =D Dun worry, at least u are better than me ^_^ I'm plain lazy to refer to any, thus i will just skip whatever i wanna say.. lol =D
@anawar (2404)
• United States
26 Jun 10
Exactly my point! Even novels written in the 1980's show a remarkable difference from what is on the market today. Seems we're devolving in our efforts to get ahead. I'm ashamed to say that my own vocab has slipped, and there's been a time or two when I've consulted a dictionary. Please don't tell anyone.
1 person likes this
• India
20 Jun 10
Hi, Whenever I read, I read classics. The most important thing about classics is that it was meant to please readers to a great extent. Today's writings seem like they are meant to please the author himself, even more than they are to amuse the readers. Also we compose things within a very limited time period, which in turn deteriorates the quality of the composition. Today's writings are more professional than those classics. I never thought there could be some course on english composition or on poetry. Being an author or a poet never was such easy. It is the current taste and haste of the impatient readers that made it possible. Thanks to god, the genuine lovers of literature are not yet extinct, and they essentially start their study with classic masterpieces. Right now I am reading some works of Mark Twain. Thanks for starting this wonderful discussion. God bless you
@anawar (2404)
• United States
26 Jun 10
I'm not sure what you meant by "today's writings are more professional than those classics." I guess it hinges on the definition of "professional." I never thought about an author writing to please herself. In a way, that's what we do. If it's not fun to write, then who feels like writing it? I do get your point, however, I just had to stick in my off-the-wall remark. Excellent sentence, by the way; ". . . current taste and haste . . ."
@anneeliz (94)
• United States
20 Jun 10
Hi anawar, I do not think you are nuts at all! I think you are quite accurate and actually perceptive. Your statement "The writing is tight, flows like an idyllic river and entrances me" is how I feel as well. In this world of instant messaging, texting, email, short news blurbs, it is hard sometimes to acclimate to the broader scope of writing. I have many classics around the house for my children to read, and sometimes will start reading one at night before their bedtime. The classics allow your imagination to exercise its rights :D! Thank you for your topic and thoughts..I may just go pick up one in our bookshelf for the summer :)
@anawar (2404)
• United States
26 Jun 10
Well said! That's awesome you are keeping the classics alive for your children. They are our future senators, teachers, and CEO's. Appreciation for what has been lost may have a redeeming value. I really enjoyed your sentence about exercising our rights. Well said, and insightful.
@peavey (16936)
• United States
20 Jun 10
I go back and read classics now and then, and you're right; it helps focus on the beauty of writing a good story. I write mostly nonfiction because that's what sells, but sometimes I just get hungry for a good, flowing book that I can get lost in. It's good for the soul. :)
@anawar (2404)
• United States
26 Jun 10
Yes, you're right. It is good for the soul. I'm so happy you mentioned that. I struggle with nonfiction, seems I'm not much of a researcher.
@Hatley (163781)
• Garden Grove, California
20 Jun 10
anawar I have not read any classics lately but am like you, thrilled by the smooth flow of the different writer's words. I admire John Steinbeck's writing so much, and Hemingway's writing too.Editing is always needed but I often wish I could write so tightly that I needed little editing. I just thought of my writing teacher in junior college who told us write without stopping or editing until you get the story down. Then tellyourself that most is garbage. Then start the editing and and do not be too hard on yourself. I try first to edit out the flowery stuff that sounds like something for a birthday card then go from there. Next I have to tighten up my sentences. I have a tendency to write too long sentences so I work on that, too. Then the conversations I listen to and try to think if they sound like a real conversation.Editing is a tedious job but it must be done.
@anawar (2404)
• United States
26 Jun 10
Interesting comment from your teacher. First your writing is horrible, and then its time to ease up on the criticism? Hmm. I'll keep that in mind. My editing eye could not resist counting how many times you used the word "edit." (five)LOL Just goes to show how important that four letter word is. Birthday card writing? Never heard that one before. Wonderful, one more thing to watch out for.