DRMacIver's Notebook

how to write like this

how to write like this

Lucy and I were talking about the You have to do the easy bits first piece, and she asked me how I wrote it.

It’s a good question. I didn’t answer it very well.

Here, let’s have another go.

The way to write like this is to write like this.

That isn’t a very helpful answer, huh.

One more time.

The way to write like THIS is to write like THIS!

the way to write

like this

is to write

like this

thewaytowritelikethisistowritelike this

You see?

The way to change how you write is to change how you write.

The best part of the answer I gave Lucy earlier is that the thing where the paragraphs are short (I said one sentence, but actually looking again they’re not) is more important than you’d think.

The way to change the voice you write in is to write in a different voice.

And the voice of your writing is

determined by its form. As you shift

the layout

the format

the literal physical way the words appear on the page

the sound of what you are writing changes, and with it the voice in which you write moves to match.

When I write like this, in long discursive paragraphs, in which I patiently explain the thing I am doing to you, that is one voice. I can fuck with it if I want, right? Code switch mid paragraph. I don’t have to write like a tedious book, but this is the tone that I naturally fall back into, because habits of writing are entrained ways of being, that one grows comfortable in. If you try to do a thing that is well served by a particular mode, you have to actively exert effort to avoid falling back into that mode. It’s entirely possible, especially if you have other modes that you’re used to and can borrow from, but without the clarity that those modes provide, it is difficult to avoid. It is hard to write differently without first deciding what that difference is, and the easiest form of difference is to be able to say “More like that”.

When you fuck with the form

you instantly break the habit


the habit can no longer serve you.

Will the result be good? Nah, probably not. That’s OK.

Viktor Shklovsky thinks that art is about defamiliarisation, and I think this is even more true for the artist than for the viewer of the art. In order to create art, you must first break out of your habitual mode of engaging with the thing you are depicting. Anything that breaks the habit by forcing you outside of what it can do will help you to achieve that, by pushing you into a mode where everything is strange, and giving you a space in which to learn that strangeness.

but if you do what you also do

you’ll get what you always get.

This is uncomfortable at first, of course it is. You’re learning a whole new way of engaging with the world through writing. Stay with that discomfort, and write through it, and see what happens.

Or, in short:

The way to write like this is to write like this.