Why I hate writing, Part 6 – metaphorically speaking

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Part 6? Perhaps it’s time to look back before we move forward.

In my first post in the series, Why I hate writing, I talked about how I hate both good and bad writers. This post got a ton a comments from writers because, as I think most of you understand, writers are gluttons for punishment.

In Why I hate writing, Part 2, I talked about how unfair it is that many good writers go unpublished or under-marketed while it seems celebrities have publishers beating a path to their doors with offers of a book deal. Yeah. Life’s unfair like that. At least it provides work to some ghost writers. What? You don’t really think any of those people actually write their own books, do you? Bless your heart.

In Why I hate writing, Part 3, I talked about how sometimes writing hurts. Self reflection and examination can be ouchy.

In Why I hate writing, Part 4, I stole borrowed discussed at length a question Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent asked on her blog: “Which would you prefer? Great reviews, critical acclaim and awards… or great sales?” My answer was “both” of course, which she said was cheating because I had to choose one, but she’s not the boss of me. This was also the post where I introduced the term “lazy book whore”.

In Why I hate writing, Part 5, I discussed at length, my writing muse. Who, in case you missed it, is kind of a bitch.

So, here we are at the sixth installment of this series. Which begs the question, “If you hate writing so much, why do you keep writing and keep writing about writing?” Fair question.

I do it because, as I mentioned in the first post of this series, I don’t actually hate writing, I love/hate writing. I love the challenge of it. The idea that a perfect story (or song, poem, novel, article or blog post) is like a perfect golf game. To the golfer and to the writer, perfection is unattainable, and yet we hone our skills, practice and fail, and then start fresh again, trying our best to reach the unattainable goal. It’s an endless and challenging education.

Or at least it can be. Then again, sometimes we get lazy. (And by “we” I mean “me”, but feel free to include yourself if the shoe fits.)

Yesterday I wrote a post about a fire ant invasion in my house. Yes, it’s horrible and disgusting, thanks for asking. I started writing the post last week with every intention of making the story into a life metaphor. But then I wrote another post for the blog carnival about brokenness where I used shattered Correlle dishes as a metaphor for our broken selves. Now, I could have easily gone the metaphor route, but that struck me as taking the easy and expected route.

Instead, I decided to make the post an introduction to this post. Metaphors and similes can be wonderful writer’s tools in order to convey important themes or messages in your story, but there are times when we use metaphors just to prove we know how. And clearly, not everyone is equally gifted in the art of the powerful metaphor. Take these examples from Why English Teachers Die Young (via Snopes.com): A list of some of the worst analogies ever:

  • She had a deep throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
  • McBride fell twelve stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
  • From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 instead of 7:30.
  • Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.
  • Shots rang out. As shots are wont to do.
  • He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
  • The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  • The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law, Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work. (my personal fave)

Obviously, these examples are so ridiculously bad that they’re humorous. And if you’re going for humor, a bad metaphor or analogy is great. What’s not great is when a writer tries to force a metaphor when simple description will suffice. Like overusing adjectives or adverbs, or writing in a passive voice, it’s a sign of a timid, inexperienced and/or insecure writer.

Sometimes less is more. I mean, you don’t need to say:

“Behold the children’s loyal companion, its body like the expertly played keys of a piano in both movement and color”,

when all you really need to say is:

“See Spot run.”

A good quote bears repeating:

“I’m not asking you to come reverently or unquestioningly; I’m not asking you to be politically correct or cast aside your sense of humor (please God you have one). This isn’t a popularity contest, it’s not the moral Olympics, and it’s not church. But it’s writing damn it, not washing the car or putting on eyeliner. If you can take it seriously, we can do business. If you can’t or won’t, it’s time for you to close the book and do something else.

Wash the car, maybe.” ~ Stephen King, On Writing

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