Saturday, 17 September 2011

Your Approach

The start of the fencing season has rolled around, and with it my usual concerns about whether I am fencing sabre correctly. To which the short answer is not exactly. I won’t bother you with the fine detail of my technique except to say that it is different enough from the normal one to be noticeable to me, yet not so different that opponents are constantly wondering what I’m doing.

The big point, however, is that it works for me. And this is where it spills over to writing, because as occasionally useful as I think the whole industry teaching us to write ‘better’ is, I think that people occasionally take it too seriously. They think that you have to write their way, when in fact, you should be writing in yours.

There is a caveat to that, however, which is that you should be writing in yours if it works, and if you aren’t getting better results from other approaches. The slight quirks of my sabre technique have not been adopted on a whim, but are rather an attempt to both disguise my major weakness and open up greater precision in my blade work. I adopted them only after working for some time with the precisely orthodox approach, and I still go back to it from time to time to keep connected with it and what it offers.

If you have a radically different approach to your writing, in other words, that’s fine, but it needs to be based on a deep understanding of what you’re doing. Some people are so quick to jump off into what they think is their unique voice that they don’t realise no one else is doing what they’re doing for a reason. Make sure you’re following an interesting path as a writer, not a dead end.

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