I picked up this whimsical version of the writers’ classic handbook “The Elements of Style” by Strunk & White. This version includes the artwork of Maira Kalman. I acquired my first copy of The Elements as a college freshman and had used it as a tool for perfecting my prose. Every writer needs a copy of the old, new or illustration edition.
Incidentally, I had misplaced my original copy a few years ago. I had forgotten all about it until I was browsing through a book shop and came across Kalman’s reproduction. I would say it was serendipitous, as far as the timing is concerned, because I have just commenced a new writing project. A second novel. Not that the first one ever got out. It’s on the back burner. This one is different. It will be my breakthrough work.
Writing has been a love-hate relationship for me. Tumultuous. Like most writers, I am my own worst critic. I go through monstrous editing phases which derail the stream of consciousness process that defines how I shape a story. I write my prose in notebooks. By hand. Then, I go back and type a transcription. That’s when the lunatic editor, my Doctor Jeckyl alter-ego, takes over. It prevents me from finishing a work. I am working to tame that down.
The process of writing prose is an intimate, consuming experience. I marvel at the different ways writers work. Some writers are incredibly superstitious about the mood, noise control, time of day and other external conditions, and, if something is off, they cannot produce. Other writers are rigid with formal regimens bordering OCD. And, there are some writers who are so fluid that they don’t call to action when they are meant to write, the writing calls them to action – if the voice is there, if they feel the words coming to them, then they will abandon sleep, their families, their day jobs – everything – to obey the call to write.
I think of myself as a hybrid of sorts. But, my process always includes a notebook and a Sharpie fine point pen. And, hopefully a blend of luck and persistence.
There is no right or wrong way to write. But, with a little luck and persistence, the muse may arrive and give you what you’ve been longing for – the end to writer’s block and the beginning of a great story.
That’s where I’m at. And, while I’m at it, I’m referring to “The Illustrated Elements of Style” for inspiration and perfection. Without my Doctor Jeckyl alter ego.