Wednesday 8 August 2018

Thoughts in Progress

I am a writer. That was one of my conclusions when I left The Guardian’s offices recently. I had attended a masterclass by my favourite journalist/columnist, Gary Younge. Gary turned out to be a very engaging facilitator, even if I felt star-struck at the beginning and therefore found it difficult to concentrate. Very few times I am reduced to the role of weepy groupie who has just met her music idol, but that was me the first quarter of an hour. Minus the weeping.

I came away from the masterclass with a few conclusions. The first one was that it is OK to be egocentric as a writer. In fact, in a very subtle way, Younge encouraged his audience to go for a certain type of healthy solipsism. In talking about his family, especially his mother, Gary rendered our own personal stories universal. We all share a relative who is slightly awkward, overweight, eccentric, and at the same time lovable, trustworthy and enterprising.

The second conclusion I took from the workshop was that we writers are privileged. We get not only to experience the occasional, unique moment in history but also to capture it and transform it into a piece of art. An aesthetic truth can be expressed in non-fiction as well as or sometimes better than in fiction.

The third conclusion was the raison d’être of writing. Why write? Because I exist as a human being first and as many other mutations after. And each of these layers feels the need to leave traces of their existence behind. That, in a sense, is the essence of writing. To give a platform to each of these identity markers in order to share a truth with the world. Sometimes in a fictionalised way. Sometimes veracity-driven. Each of these layers makes up and contributes to my writer’s output and constitution. I exist, therefore I write. Or vice versa.

I mentioned the writer’s solipsistic nature before. A caveat, though. It may be our voice doing all the singing but we still play with a full backing band. The combination of these two elements, the writer’s (inner) motivation and the influence of her/his surroundings on their work, gives us a vivid and rich tableau vivant of the writer’s inner world and the way it interacts with the outer one. That’s the fourth conclusion.

The fifth conclusion involves the blank page or the act of killing it. Bump the blank off the page as soon as you can. Your draft should materialise within minutes, because we always have something to say (write).

Sixth and last conclusion: writing is never lineal. Your story has a thesis. It also has an antithesis. The job is to combine both to come up with a synthesis. Writing that takes place in an echo chamber is not writing. It’s self-congratulatory, back-slapping, flat-lining drivel. Write in order to challenge yourself. Only by pushing the boundaries of what we know, as far as possible, do we start to scratch, barely scratch the surface of our human condition.

Thank you, Gary.

© 2018


  1. It sounds like an incredibly valuable class. And you are indeed (among other things) a writer.

  2. How exciting that you were able to attend a class from someone you admire so! It sounds like it was quite beneficial.

  3. Writing, like reading, is escapism. Writing, like confession, is therapy. Writing, like hurling through space, is both frightening and exhilarating. Writing, like breathing, at least for some, is a necessity of life.

    I enjoyed your post, CiL, and agree with your conclusions and think your time was well spent.

  4. The theory sounds correct. I guess the problem for some is putting it into practice. I know Gary's name, so I must have read something he wrote in The Guardian and noted his name.

  5. An interesting post. I agree with Fram Actual's comment that writing is escapism. Writing is where I lose myself in the art of putting words on paper that make sense.

  6. Sounds like you've studied under a master Hegelian! :) Good thoughts.

  7. Sure sounds like it was grand indeed. We enjoying writing away and seeing where it takes us at our bay.

  8. Me imagino que ser escritor profesional debe de ser muy agradable pero a la vez decepcionante al no obtener siempre lo esperado, con lo cual esto pasa casi en todas las profesiones.
    Las clases son muy valiosas.
    Un abrazo.

  9. A good resume of what sounds like a very good class. It must have been very interesting to attend. I have never attended one of those Guardian events but it sounds as if they could be worth checking out.

  10. Yes sir, you most definitely are a writer. You have a beautiful way with words, a fine intellect, and the heart to capture it. It sounds like the class was terrific once you go over feeling like a groupie. :)

  11. I think you write good!
    I think the truth .No matter how the truth is or are..It must be told.
    Then also love the ones who tells their story..of life..
    All in all writing and reading are the best form for learning and understanding.

  12. Succinctly written, thanks for sharing these valid points.

  13. i enjoyed reading your post.
    now i know why i write. (or why i try to write). :)

  14. WOW...wish I were half as eloquent in my scribblings as you are!
    Sometimes that blank page defeats me for days...and if I do begin to write as I think, it definitely reads as utter drivel when I reread it after completion! LOL
    Think I am desperately in need of a class like this one!!
    Thank you so much for a really fabulous and thought-provoking post.:))

    Greetings from a rather soggy Hampshire!

  15. This sounds like it was a fabulous experience. I especially like the idea of making personal stories universal. I love it when someone reads one of my posts and tells me how they had a similar experience. Stories begat stories--or otherwise you end up with "Dear Diary" type of drivel that even you don't want to read.

    Great post, Mario!

  16. Sin duda, eres un gran escritor, saludos amigo.

  17. Writing is such a big part of who I am. I can't imagine NOT writing.
    This was very eloquent and insightful.

  18. Sounds like a great workshop! It's funny how in a way the personal stories are the most universal, the specific details add the truths that people can then relate to.



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