Just wanted to share my experience and joy of attending a brilliant workshop by the fabulous Ben Okri at the Emirates Festival of Literature 2013
Here’s what I learnt 🙂
Notes, points and exercise in discovering and identifying your voice
Ben Okri on Difference between Style and Voice:
Dont Confuse Voice with Style. They overlap one another but are not the same thing. Style is which you choose to shape, your craft – it is a deliberate identity, some identifiable beat. But Voice is different. Style is a beautiul movable prison.
Find your Voice is finding your fundamental freedom. Your Voice is how your words come out before you say them!
Ben Okri on writing:
What is fundamental to writing… people often say that we have a writer’s block… what we have written is so bad… but what they fail to realize is that for writing… it is fundamental to look.. and not just look but observe without judgment… like a child who sees the world wide-eyed and without any judgement. It is most difficult because we tend to externalise our experiences and not internalize them… Remember Henry James when he said: ‘BE SOMEONE ON WHOM NOTHING IS LOST.’
The basis of your writing is your aliveness – to observe. All great writers are terrifying observers. Dont notice the ordinary eather the unusual and you do that without any judgement. Our problem is that we tend to look for specific things.
To write or not to write
After observation, it is important to get down to business. You need to write… dont think it should be good or bad… You should just write… and remember one thing… Writing IS writing.. so dont judge it… when you begin… trust me… it will be BAD… really BAD… infact it will be rotten… People ususally stop after the first draft just because they get discouraged by what they have written.. dont be… It is supposed to be bad.
The participants were then to write a piece on what was the most significant thing we notticed on our way to the lit fest in 2 1/2 minute… this is what i wrote (for learning purpose of the readers):
“I took the wrong elevator and reached a quaint looking room full of bronze coloured african statues. The entire scene looked like a paradox with woonden tiles chattering as I walk briskly over them towards the glass-paneled door.’
Ben then asked the participants what words they felt were significant and asked me to underline them. They were: Bronze coloured African statues, glass paneled door, chatter, wooden floor
And this is what he said:
Remember writing is writing. Just do it. It doesnt matter if its good or bad. Just dive and dont plan. If even one word strikes other people, it means its a success. So when writing for the first time, expect it to be bad. Expectation is most threatening but expect your writing to be bad. (fyi that is the kind of emphasis he put on bad writing)
Your voice is your very own unique way of looking, its what you CHOOSE. When you begin writing, dont think that is your voice. You have to find it as it is locked in. You need to keep elimiating stuff which is not doing its job.
He then asked us to put what ever we wrote in a single sentence – whatever we think is important in a few minutes … and here is what I wrote:
The woonden tiles chattered and the bronze coloured African statues looked down upon me as I reached the glass paneled door.
This is my voice… the bronze coloured African statues is my voice…
Writing is similar to sculpting… you have to carve it and make it true… One true sentence is worth a whole bad novel!!
Get as much out of yourself as you can and then compress it by eliminating stuff which is not heavy enough… distil it to its tightest essence.. Focus on the small as opposed to specifics…
One sentence by Hemmingway alway kept Fitzgerald in awe: The war was there but we didnt go to it!