Creative Writing Writing 101 2016-03-07 00:00

Are You a Couture Writer? Or a Word Spewer?

When we asked our users for ideas for future blog topics, we got tons of great responses (thank you!). One email from a writer called Wynsum Wise really hit home for me. She had lots of constructive feedback but her point that resonated most with me was that writers’ blogs at the moment (ours included) seem to be overly focused on increasing productivity rather than on enjoying the process. Writers berate themselves if they are not reaching their word count goals, and writing is talked about as this painful process that writers must force themselves to endure.

Wynsum said that actually she loved writing. She loved the process of crafting words together into something wonderful and she compared her process to sewing a couture gown. She worried that focusing too much on productivity might turn the writing process into a chore instead of a pleasure.

I said I loved the image of sewing a couture gown with words and asked if she would write a guest post for us on exactly this point. Enjoy!

Lisa Lepki

Editor of the ProWritingAid blog

  1. Enjoy the Process: A Lesson from Learning Couture

Enjoy the Process: A Lesson from Learning Couture

Are you a couture writer? Or a Word Spewer?

You’re a writer, right? Me too! Fairy tales and happy endings were my escape from a nasty childhood. I also love to sew because, once upon a time, I was too small to find adult clothing in my size. I’m going to tell you about a lesson I learned from learning to sew couture.

For those who are not fashionistas, couture is custom clothes making. The term implies high-quality. Haute Couture is the top-rung of couture. Think Chanel and Christian Dior.

First, let’s talk about writing a little.

Words, words, words. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is all about words. Good words, trash words, words, words, words! The goal is a certain number of words by the end of the time period.

In the beginning, I bought into this hype. Get those words out and worry about cleaning and polishing later. The underlying message is that putting words to paper is daunting, something a writer is forced to do. I personally found word-spewing to be a chore.

Let’s go back to sewing.

I define sewing as the cutting and binding of fabrics with thread to create items.

Tailored jackets are my thing. Sewing one can be time-consuming and difficult because of the complexity in putting together the many parts. I used modern sewing techniques, which in essence are cutting from a pattern, pinning edges together, and running the edges through a machine.

When I made a jacket, I rushed through because my goal was to have a finished jacket. I didn’t enjoy cutting, pinning, and stitching because my mind was on finishing the jacket. Isn’t that what a goal-oriented person does --- shoot for the goal?

To ramp up my skills, I bought a book on couture. (Couture Sewing Techniques by Clair B. Shaeffer) Couture was the traditional way of sewing until the sewing machine was invented. It emphasizes hand stitching and attention to teeny details. To sew couture, you must not be in a hurry.

Back to writing --- what is writing? Words? A story?

No. It’s a process. Words make phrases, and phrases are stitched together to make what I term a “narrative package.” A “narrative package” encompasses fiction, non-fiction, poetry, reports, etc.

Words are the raw fabric: weave, knit, or bonded leather. We cut and combine words into phrases, and the phrases are the pieces that you stitch to reach your goal of the narrative package.

Techniques writers use may be classified into three broad categories:

If you don’t know or understand writing techniques, you can learn them.

Here’s what you bring as a writer, a sewer of phrases, that cannot be taught.

  • experience
  • perseverance
  • ability to acquire new knowledge
  • creativity

I diagrammed the process below. As a writer, the most fun should be in the white bubble.

The couture writing process

“OMG,” you say. “Wynsum, you are doing a Socrates and over-analyzing something I already know.”Yeah, I’m a pain that way. But the exciting part comes in looking at the process in a different way.

You can pin and stitch your narrative package together, or you can slow down and stitch couture. I’m not saying everyone must abandon word-spewing. Some need the motivation, and that’s okay. Many writers, however, could benefit from slowing down, moving away from only focusing on your goal, and living more in the process. In this way, you give yourself the space and time to learn, improve, experiment, and grow. Your quality will improve. You will make time to write because you will not treat writing as a chore. You may even reach the end goal more quickly.

I really enjoy these parts of writing:

  • understanding techniques of the past and allowing my character to express her/himself through historical ways of doing things,

  • searching for the perfect word or phrase in English and other languages,

  • experimenting with punctuation and literary devices such as alliteration and rhyme,

  • discovering symbolism my unconscious mind creates and developing the symbolism, and

  • investigating how other cultures viewed themselves and were viewed by others, thereby enriching and improving the accuracy of my storyworld

I challenge you to be a couture writer and enjoy the process.

What do you enjoy about your writing process?

How can you have more fun in the process?

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