The Mystery of Great Writing

I had a heated discussion with Sassy Man last night about this sentiment of Hemingway’s. Hyper-logical creature that he is, Sassy Man thinks great writing is like a computer – you can break it all down into its parts to see how it really works.

I emphatically disagree. With any of the creative arts – whether it be painting, dancing, or writing – I think those works that soar above while at the same time reaching something deep within are un-dissectable. It’s a case of the whole being so much more than the sum of its parts, what they call “dancing between the steps” on SYTYCD. You can take a passage from a book, or even the whole work itself, and analyze everything about it down to word choice and sentence construction, and still not come up with why it moves you so. I’m torn on whether or not you should even try, although the best stuff does seem to be impervious to our chipping away at it. And isn’t that what Hemingway was saying to begin with?

Given the ridiculous number of writing books I have (future blog topic!), it might seem I’m being hypocritical here. I’m not. In always striving to improve technique, you are merely adding tools to your kit, so that when you do have that magic moment – that in-the-zone, this-is-it, I’ve-reached-new-heights breakthrough – you’re not waylaid by a missing screwdriver, as it were. But that magic moment is about so much more than the nuts and bolts and screwdrivers. After all, you can give the same exact toolbox and wood and pattern to ten different carpenters, but only one might make a chair worthy of Chippendale.