Thursday, October 6, 2011

Confident writing

It's fun to enter contests. There's the element of surprise and a sort of carefree, what-the-heck release that comes from tossing your hat in the ring. Just like that silly carnival game where you flip over a random rubber duck. Yeah, you probably won't win but hey, those duckies are cute. Bayou magazine sponsors annual prizes in fiction and poetry that include the added benefit of a subscription to the journal for your $15 entry fee. (So check it out and throw your 7,500-word-or-less hat into their ring!)

The first piece in Bayou's latest issue (#35) is titled, unappealingly, "Shitstick." Against my natural inclination, I started reading anyway. It did not take long for the author to grab my attention, and he held it, in spite of the fact that the essay is about young boys I didn't have much sympathy for and a childhood experience I could not relate to. It was the writing. Hans Burger, in his first publication, has some damned confident prose. And just like with dating, confidence is attractive.

As a result, I've been thinking about what exactly makes writing confident. The easy answer is "doing everything right" - displaying the right details, choosing the most fitting words, and balancing between description and action, among other things. But that answer seems like a cop-out to me. Perhaps confident writing is nothing more than the intangible sense a writer gives when she knows what she has to say and says it with the most perfect economy available. But perhaps confidence is a mirage, the result of layers upon layers of careful editing. I suspect that no amount of editing can make uncertain prose gleam with confidence, but I'm open to being convinced.

Photo from the Rubber Duck Regatta, a program to benefit prevention of elder abuse.

1 comment:

Rowenna said...

I agree with you--the confidence has to be there from the beginning, the belief that you have something to say and that you're the person to say it. I think that writing that isn't confident can end up stylistically perfect but still flat. If anything, overediting not-so-confident prose might just edit the life right out of it!

Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma