1. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    Command vs creativity of language

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Foxe, Aug 21, 2015.

    A few moments ago I was reading the poetry of Robert Frost. I remarked to myself how masterful the command of the English language that these geniuses (other poets, too) possess.

    I considered that I, too, have a pretty good command of the English language. I write for a living and for pleasure (though they don't overlap [yet] unfortunately).

    It occurred to me that command of the language and creativity with that command are two separate things. Where I can use many interesting words to describe something, the creative use of them to shape language is what sets those brilliant poets apart. They take the English and turn what is a fairly rigid thing in my mind and make it malleable to serve their purpose. I felt a little saddened by my new found shortcomings, but proud to have noticed this slight yet significant difference.

    What are your thoughts on command vs creative application of language?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    My thought is that it feels related to the particular level at which one wishes to engage communication. No different to the way a reader (or watcher) can engage a book or film at either face value or at different levels of depth for underlying structure, meaning and intent. Command of a language concerns technical proficiency and understanding of the function of the system, its subsystems and so on. Creativity with language is when you manipulate those systems and subsystems to carry information in ways that are new, intriguing, perhaps even befuddling so as to make the person who is engaged question and ponder the why of the writing.

    I could also just be talking out of my ass. :ohno: Totally possible. :whistle::-D
     
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  3. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I was just thinking about this, actually. I would mirror your opinion in the sizing up of my own abilities. I have a good command of the English language, but I tend to lack in creativity. But is this necessarily a drawback of mine? It makes me a good non-fiction writer and editor after all, so should I just be satisfied that I write more easily with that area of my brain? I'm actually starting to wonder if I should attempt creative fiction at all, or if I should stick to what comes naturally to me.

    Though, it is somewhat depressing to think about the limitations of one's natural ability. The question becomes, is it more beneficial to spend one's time mastering a skill with a natural advantage, or is it better to neglect a certain portion of that natural ability in order to practice in the areas of weakness?

    Another thought I have, and I'm not sure if this is due to my lack of ability to see things as creatively as some, is where's the line? When is it acceptable to bend the rules of command to favor creativity? Should someone already have a very good grasp on application in order to be able to break rules? Because I see people try to write creatively without first having a decent grasp of application, and it often doesn't work very well in their favor.

    Hmm ...
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
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  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The way I see it, command is knowing when to use the appropriate word and rule of grammar. Creativity is seeing the world with new eyes. You can have one without the other, but ideally you want both.
     
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  5. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    All very true, but I think these are the kind of writers (poetry aside) who turn up on the Man Booker lists.

    What I'm trying to say is that I don't think you need to possess the same command of the English language as these people, to make it as a successful writer.

    If that's the level you're aiming for, then fair enough, but 'published' will do for me.
     
  6. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    It's more of a "damn, I wish I could do that!" kind of thing. But being published would be a nice, acceptable start for me, too!
     
  7. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe I lack ambition, but when I accepted I'd probably never reach even close to that standard of writing, the process got a whole lot easier.

    Read Willy Vlautin's The Motel Life, and it will restore your self-confidence no end. And as derogatory as that might sound to the author, it's anything but.
     
  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Success in writing doesn't depend on creativity, most of the time all you need is functional prose and a good plot. I've got a collection of Zebra horrors to attest to that. And some don't even have a good plot.

    If your goal is to wield language like a poet though, then you might have trouble - as far as I'm concerned those guys think differently. Sometimes I feel like they've bucked the whole system. School kinda wires you
    to settle for the correct way to achieve an A rather than exploring and possibly getting an F. And that kinda mentality gets carried on through life.

    Maybe they experimented more or said f-that and did their own thing. When I want to challenge myself I experiment. But it's more a personal goal. And IMOHO functional will get you published a helluva lot faster than beautiful.
     
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  9. Foxe
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    Foxe Active Member

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    When it has come to poetry, I've managed to write some special things (I've put them on Instagram to fill the void of attention, hah!).

    When it comes to language, i think that it takes command of the language before one can apply it creatively - as with all things, like music, photography, driving (just kidding).
     
  10. RevGeo
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    RevGeo Member

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    Cut yourself some slack. You can't have a good plot or theme without being creative. How poetically you put them across is your business.
    Look, I've spent most of my life as a professional musician, song writer, poet, journalist and writer. I got fucked up during the Viet Nam war and I've had a disabled veteran's pension for the last 20 years (my one true stroke of luck). I realize that puts me in a privileged position - I really don't have to worry about an income. However, I spent the 30 years previous to my hitting the old-guy lottery living pretty much by my wits and creativity (such as they are), and if I have any advice for people just starting into the creative life, it would be to be true to your gut feelings about your art.
    Don't worry about what is selling now or what publishers want. If you are lucky enough to be ensconced in your death-bed, surrounded by your loving friends and family, your thoughts will not be about how much money you made or how you made your living. Your thoughts will probably be about your real accomplishments.
    You are an artist, aren't you? If you weren't you wouldn't be writing; especially fiction. Write your story, not what you think the suits will buy.
    Don't spend your last moments with someone else's life passing before your eyes.

    Just some thoughts from a guy entering his dotage; make of them what you will.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
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  11. Aaron DC
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    Aaron DC Contributing Member

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    I would prefer to be understood than marveled at.
    The best writing gets out of its own way and lets the story become the focus.

    I have a terrible affliction of liking what I write and writing for myself.

    I compare myself now to myself before. There will always be someone better. I am better now at critiquing than I was when I first joined, and jannert is still better than me. But she inspires me.

    When someone is better than me at something, I am pleased for them. If I care about that thing, I draw inspiration from them and/or their performance.

    But what I have is enough. I trust I will continue to improve whilst I wish to and strive to.
     

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