Charmaine Ward's Writing Tips
If I were a Roger Hargreaves character, I’d be Little Miss Take. Take what you can, take everything. Forget necessity: superfluity is the other mother of invention. The work of writing is the work of making aggregates out of the things in our lives: the broken shell my daughter carries around in her pocket, a friend’s theory on lucid dreams, the look of a finger recently stripped of its ring. I make disparate things reach an accord by giving them places alongside each other in part because I don’t like leaving things out. You shouldn’t either, d’accord?
I blame my generation. Writing for the New Yorker, George Packer offers, “Children of the 1970's, having inherited a reflexive cynicism toward authority . . . learned early on to feel envy, shame and resentment.” No wonder the Mr. Men books are part of its zeitgeist. If only we were all named after our most human attributes.
The work of writing is also about being accident prone, bellyflopping into our mistakes. Just yesterday, I read dot matrix as dominatrix; I blamed the wrong person for something; I lost an earring. The beauty of a sustained continuous scene in a film, shot in a single take, isn’t how long actors or cinematographers or directors go before making a mistake; it’s about witnessing the same intimacy we experience when someone drops their guard and reveals something true and messy and vulnerable. Self-surrender is mystical, and imperative — let go of yourself to make room for things you can take, or mistake.
Charmaine Ward is the author of two books of poetry, What You Used to Wear and Placeholder. Her writing has appeared in The Fiddlehead, Grain, Prairie Fire, The Antigonish Review, and elsewhere. She won the ReLit and Brockman Campbell Book awards. Born in Toronto, she now lives in North Carolina.
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