With what do you write? A computer? A pencil? A ballpoint/ biro? Rollerball? Quill and the blood of virgins (male or female is fine. We’re all about the equal opportunity at Regal)? A fountain pen (people who use a fountain pen get extra credit points)?
I use a computer. One of the best things my mother ever did for me was pack me (and my older brother) off to Stott’s Business College in Melbourne for a summer course in typing. She’d gone there herself about forty years before, and I have to say the place did seem to hark back a bit. We had huge typewriters that were possibly 20 years old even in the 70s. Perhaps one of them still had my mother’s fingerprints on it. We all typed in rhythm – one-two-three, one-two-three – and we’d bring our finished paragraph up to the teacher to check. Any mistakes and we’d have to do it again. My brother, a post-graduate at the university at the time, kept making so many mistakes he began to cheat and not take his paragraph to be vetted. Then we’d begin to have a bit of a giggle, outraging the teacher who, it turned out, thought I was flirting with this boy. Ah, the 70s. Recall this ‘boy’ is and was six years older than me, but, hey, it must be the girl’s fault. Still, she blushed fiery red when she discovered our surname was the same.
But I digress. Nowadays, I type a good faster than I write in longhand and, anyhow, with a pen in hand I can lose the thread or totally forget the trenchant point I was trying to make, well before I get to the end of a sentence. Also, bless this technology that allows you to hone and hone and hone without making a total mess.
I do, however, keep endless copies. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I fantasize that historians will actually want to know about all of my rewrites. You know… how did JL Crozier arrive at her great art? What were her methods? What can we learn from her? So my folders are full of versions 1 to 25, not to mention 4.5 and so on. Once I was on the verge of mass deletions of versions 1-24 (and the rest), but then I thought there were some passages that could be copied and dropped into the newest version. So now I am too paranoid to lose anything… and, anyway, what of posterity? Can’t you just see the PhD student of 2045 ploughing through the gems of #1-24, noting them for the gratification of other students of deathless literature?
Maybe I should just relax.
There’s fair bit of interest, scientific and otherwise, in the links between creativity and insanity. How crazy must someone be to be a good author?
What are you suggesting?? Well, you’re probably correct. I think the answer is ‘reasonably’, though then again we could just spend a lot of time with a brandy balloon in front of an open fire discussing what exactly is sanity anyway.
Personally, I think the line between the two is far from clean-cut, as is any demarcation between what we think we know of as ‘normal’ and any number of syndromes. The mind is a remarkably plastic thing, and the brain can build itself back together after incurring great trauma. What we understand about the world is so largely taught a university department-full of philosophers could not really tell where essential reality lies. We take rather a lot on trust, but then we have to balance that with a learned capacity to balance evidence and probabilities. There is always the possibility of further refinement to edge us closer to a ‘truth’, which is I guess why the current enthusiasm for fakery in media is so deeply destructive.
Still, back to the question. We’re none of us absolutely steady, and we wouldn’t want to be. Where would life be, if we had nothing to improve on? And as writers, we need to understand the unsettling effects of emotion and trauma. We need to understand instability, if we want to write characters. We need to recognize frailty and we need to empathize with it.
That’s how crazy we need to be to be authors. But add to that a need for obsessiveness. Otherwise we’d never finish.
Are you fluent in any other languages? If so, do you find that knowledge has any effect on your writing? Is it important for people to learn other languages? Why?
I’m fluent in French, which comes from a childhood in Vietnam in the 60s at a French convent in Saigon. I’m living in France now (the choice of country made, obviously, because I had a head start from my very distant youth), and relieved that much of ‘learning’ is more ‘remembering’. Though there are moments – think of the number of French phrases you think you know… in fact many of these are not translations at all. A French person would not know what you meant as you enthuse about your ensuite. It does not mean your own private bathroom in French. Honestly.
I’ve discovered that the French can take a long time to finish a letter, what with all the linguistic flourishes; I have a French friend who can devastate tradesmen with politeness until has absolutely won her point and they are begging to be allowed to make reparations. I’ve also discovered that many of the differences in language lie in nuance and that English and French speakers can each inadvertently find themselves being rude. I myself can find myself in the middle of a sentence without a paddle, if you see what I mean.
No, it doesn’t have an effect on my writing, but it will be interesting to see what happens if it is ever translated. And will I know what to look for as the author? Scary.
Look around myself in France and noting how many anglophones here don’t speak French, I would say yes, it’s important. But I think too that some people find learning a new language very difficult, especially when they’ve reached retirement age, and especially when the anglophone diaspora makes it so easy to avoid it. But what they miss is understanding a culture that’s represented by its language. Forever, those community.
Languages can’t be directly translated; there’s a culture behind them and a millennium of simile and metaphor. English is awash with ocean-going and naval references (e.g. ‘room to swing a cat’ – that’s a cat ‘o nine-tails); I understand northerners and Inuit have a bag-full of words for snow. There’s about a dozen words for ‘rain’ in Scotland. Sometimes something really isn’t translatable at all. You just need to know its background.
That’s the kind of thing we need to understand about language. Well, about people, really.
JL (Judy) Crozier’s early life was a sweep through war-torn South East Asia: Malaysia’s ‘Emergency’, Burma’s battles with hill tribes, and the war in Vietnam. In Saigon, by nine, Judy had read her way through the British Council Library, including Thackeray and Dickens. Home in Australia, she picked up journalism, politics, blues singing, home renovation, child-rearing, community work, writing and creative writing teaching, proof reading and editing, and her Master of Creative Writing. She now lives in France.
J.L. Crozier’s historical novel, What Empty Things Are These, is available from booksellers all over the world.