‘The excellence of every art must consist in the complete accomplishment of its purpose.’ – Alfred Drury
This is the quotation that soars above the entrance to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It is. as you would expect, rather fitting. The V&A houses thousands of items, each beautiful and noteworthy in its own way.
It’s also a philosophy I try to follow in my own practice.
I tend to write vary varied material: poetry; blog posts about travel; press releases and publicity material for my jobs. I’m even attempting to write a Mills & Boon-style romance!
But what matters to me isn’t what I’m writing – it’s how I write it. And I know that sounds slightly corny, so let me explain:
When I’m writing poetry, I focus very closely on the language I use, on the images it creates, and on the sound of the words when spoken aloud. I pay attention to meter and cadence, and think actively about rhyme. The result is usually less than a page, but that doesn’t mean it’s a quick process. Instead, it’s as though the writing process has been condensed and strengthened, like that double strength fruit cordial that you somehow always end up using too much of.
When I’m writing for my romance, however, the process is entirely different. Partly because it’s all just a bit of fun, although I do still want to do the job properly (heaving bosoms and all!). So I focus on the story: how events shape emotions, and how to get characters from A to B. I don’t focus too closely on the language: it’s more like impressionism, with broad brush strokes just intended to convey feelings, rather than meticulously engineered imagery and sound.
Totally different ways of writing, but they do have something in common: in both situations, I’m trying to achieve a purpose. Whether that purpose is the precise conveyance of an exact emotion, or the deep desires of two characters with sexual tension so thick you couldn’t slice it with an electric carving knife. What matters is achieving your goals.
‘The excellence of every art must consist in the complete accomplishment of its purpose.’
I’m not assuming my work is excellent – although that’s obviously what I strive for. And I strive for excellence by striving towards the various purposes I set out to accomplish.
Now excuse me, I have a romance to write…
This post originally appeared on my travel blog: Second-Hand Hedgehog.