Style Aping

I’ve fallen deeply in love with Virginia Woolf lately. I’m generally enamored of the classics that I read, if only because the kind of writing styles that existed in the 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries are so utterly different from the contemporary books I read. This isn’t a bad thing, as far as I’m concerned, because writing, like everything else, changes over time. Language changes, mannerisms change, people look and speak differently… So even though human nature probably hasn’t changed all that much at its core, stories about people are definitely going to sound different at various points in time.

Virginia Woolf has a beautifully unique writing style – in my opinion anyway – and I feel that she loves language just as much as she loves people. Yes, I think she loves people in general for being so different, versatile, strange, quirky and interesting. I truly believe that nobody could write the way she writes without loving the process of writing, even if it caused her much anguish and hardship. However, that’s not even the point, because much as I find her a fascinating person, I want to write about her style right now. That style, in my view, is distinctive. There’s a very stream-of-consciousness feel to it, although at the same time there’s a calculating purposefulness to it, a feeling that the writer knows and understands so much more than her characters do and that she, in looking at them from above, is smiling down at their thoughts and hearts that are laid bare to her. It’s beautiful, self-conscious but at the same time utterly abandoned – I don’t know how Mrs. Woolf achieved this duality in her writing or if she was even aware of it, but it’s beautiful.

A week or two ago, I read The Hours by Michael Cunningham. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes Virginia Woolf, although I would say that you should read her Mrs. Dalloway before reading The Hours. In certain, well-chosen, parts of the book, Cunningham manages to copy Virginia Woolf’s style beautifully, to its smallest details, while still keeping the plot and character fully immersed in late 20th century New York City. The man, in my opinion, is an incredible writer. The fact that he can mimic Mrs. Woolf’s style so wonderfully, while also giving other characters their own distinct voices, makes me admire him no end.

Now I finally come to the question this whole post was about: what do you think about copying a writer’s style? Personally, I think it’s interesting as practice. I feel myself trying to do this whenever I finish a book I particularly enjoyed, and I have fun with it. There’s something challenging about writing according to specific rules and trying to adhere to a very distinct atmosphere. It’s not easy, but it’s also a very different feeling than trying to find your own voice or a character’s specific voice. Still, I don’t think that I’d ever try to write something long or substantial while mimicking another writer’s style, unless (as in the case of The Hours) I was doing it purposefully and obviously.

So… What are your thoughts on this?

Confused

I’m rereading my finished novel, the first in what would ideally be a series. Yes, it’s a fantasy novel, in case you were wondering.

Reading it over now is bizarre. I can remember quite clearly what I was thinking as I wrote most parts, and it’s sort of fudging with the whole process. I’m reading it through for the first time without making any notes at all – I’m just trying to get a general feel for it and see if I like it. On my next read I’m going to start taking notes on big points that bother me, as well as fixing typos and things like that. Then, so the plan goes, I’ll start rewriting, adding and subtracting, changing brutally if I need to.

Meanwhile, I’m also trying to build a world for the novel I’m going to write for NaNoWriMo. I’m beginning to get a real feel for the fictional world and city that I’m building (yes, yes, another fantasy novel – I’ll try something else next, believe me) but I’m having trouble writing it down. Hence today’s rambling post, written right on my desktop computer for your viewing pleasure (or snores, or boredom, or simply your not reading it – those are okay too.)

I managed to keep up my writing schedule well for so long, but now that I’m done with the first draft, I’m having trouble writing again. I don’t know if it’s writer’s block, circumstances being annoying lately, or simply my mind needing some time to rest, but whatever it is – it’s frustrating and confusing me. On the one hand, I’m so pleased that I managed to finish a proper first draft of something. On the other hand, I’m not all that pleased with the result, and although I know that’s part of the process, I’m having trouble accepting it. Then, on the third hand, (because my hand-structure is clearly a being with more than two hands – I’m writing fantasy after all, right?) I’m simply annoyed with myself for not being able to write anything new. On the fourth hand, my annoyance is shifted and turns into fear that I’ll never be able to write anything again. The fifth hand has given up on trying to restrain the other four, and it and the sixth hands are just hanging out together.

Can you tell I’m going a little batty? Well, it’s because I am.

Heat-Wave

Melting.

It’s February. It’s supposed to be winter. Maybe not a very cold winter, but winter nonetheless. I can accept it being nice and springy, warm in the sun and cool in the shade. I can accept it being sunny and bright most days, with a lovely breeze making the branches rustle.

But it seems the weather has gone as mad as a hatter, because it’s HOT, HUMID, and MUGGY. In February.

Seriously, people. Melting here.

How?

How do people fall in love?

How do human beings form out of little gobs of nothing inside a womb?

How do musicians make music?

How do composers think up entirely new music?

How do writers think up the right words for the story?

How do people retain hope when things go badly?

How do people lose themselves so completely?

How did Nestle Tolehouse come up with the perfect cookie recipe?

How do you even decide when something is perfect?

How do migraines get cured?

How did human beings learn to think?

Sometimes when I think about the amount of things I don’t know, I feel overwhelmed. But then I relax, when I realize that I’m in the majority, and that anyway, sometimes the answers don’t matter – just thinking up the questions can be enough.

Now

Right now. A moment that doesn’t mean much at all. There aren’t many moments that mean something specific or momentous. But right now I’m feeling. Just feeling something. Listening to the newest album of my very favorite band and savoring every note that goes through the headphones and into my ears. Looking at the little brown and black cardboard notebook in front of me and looking forward to picking up my perfectly-pointed black pen and writing in it, because it says the word “journal” on the front. Feeling the perfect and perfectly strange warm and cold winds flowing through the one open window in my dorm room and feeling that I’m perfectly dressed for both – tank top and long pajama-bottoms.

The music pierces my very core, feels like it’s flowing right into my brain. There is an atmosphere that surrounds me, an unclear one that simply points at a new type of normalcy that I’m not yet used to. The space is still too new for me to feel utterly at home in, but still, my bed in its new sheets and with the new duvet spread on it lies behind me, inviting and warm, a place that feels like my own little den.

There’s absolutely nothing special about this moment. But that’s the point. It’s just now.

Exhaustion… Taken Over… Brain…

There are those wonderful times when you’re truly too tired to think. Your brain is full of this low, not unpleasant, fuzzy sound. For some reason, as I think of this sound now – it’s creeping up on me even as I write – I imagine that it is the snores of the little mouse that runs all day on it’s little wheel to keep our brains going. Or perhaps it is a hamster. No, mice are cuter than hamsters.

The feeling of being this exhausted, both mentally and physically, is wonderful in my opinion. This feeling holds memories for me, all of them precious: the long drive home from Disneyland that year when there was so much traffic on the way home that I fell asleep and slept through the three hour ride and was carried into my grandparents’ house awake, but pretending to still be asleep because it was so much more comfortable; the memory of every horrid migraine I’ve had and the way I’ve fallen into an exhausted, relieved sleep at the end of the long period of sleeplessness due to the pain; the memories of falling into an exhausted sleep after a particularly enjoyable, but quite long, school trip.

As I’ve confessed, my brain is approaching levels of chronic fuzzyness at the moment, and so I shall have to postpone the writing exercises that I was planning on beginning tonight. Procrastination – it is indeed a devilish instinct, is it not?