There are times when I'm so excited about writing that I can barely contain myself. Now is one of them. I fidget, I am distracted at the office, real life is a strange thing standing between me and the Important Work, et cetera. I can feel my powers as a writer growing, my awareness of new technique growing larger and I can see that my future work will be far superior to the stuff I've already written and so I want to just get on with it and write that superior work. I also--possibly because writers are essentially people who want to communicate--have a strong urge to tell everyone I know about how and why I'm so excited about writing. And then, you know, I don't say anything.
The main reason I keep mum despite my excitement is that I think the breakthroughs I'm having are too personal, too idiosyncratic, to make any sense or have any use to anyone else. Such, frankly, is increasingly the case these days whenever I feel the urge to talk about writing, which results in a weird state where the better I become as a writer, the less I find I can talk meaningfully about it.
As an example, I'll tell you about a post I had planned. One of my long-term goals is to find a way to create prose that's not only very tightly focused but is also relaxed and expansive. It will mean precisely what it says and will speak with great specificity and be full of vivid and memorable images. But at the same time it will imply a large and complete world spinning slowly on its axis and will be welcoming and comfortable for the reader. I've worked on the first half of this--the focus and the specificity and vividness--for several years now and what I've been doing has mostly been cutting extraneous stuff from my novels to leave only the essentials. My prose became pretty lean; even at its most ornate it was very deliberate writing, pointing the reader directly at what I wanted her to see and think about. You could say that I'd fallen solidly into the camp of American Modernists like Hemingway. And I like Hemingway, so that was fine for a while.
The thing is, though, after a while I began to feel that this sort of prose--which is pretty widespread especially among American writers--has a brittle kind of feel to it, a utilitarian way of presenting the world that seems sometimes to leave out most of the actual world. The actual world is vague and fuzzy and mostly only half-observed, and it constantly intrudes in the strangest ways with our plans. A tightly-woven Modernist novel doesn't allow for the hugeness and richness of the real world, and that huge richness is something I want in my books. In the real world, if you are at Grand Central Station, surrounded by pushing, anonymous crowds of people all wrapped up in their own plotlines, you can still decide to stand still and look around and see all of it, observe the color of the brunette's hat, the peeling poster on the lamp post visible through the door, the smells of coffee and less nice things, the way the light filters down from above and the fact that there is a family of pigeons roosting in a weird plaster alcove over the information desk or whatever. Even in the most busy of places, there is--if you want it--an intellectual and imaginative elbow room, an entire expansive world all around you. I wanted some of that in my stories. I didn't know how to do it, though.
I think the main barrier to achieving this expansiveness was that I was working hard on other things. I was working on character, mostly, and the varying emotional distances available through the omniscient point of view. So I was busy for a while. Now that I've learned a few lessons in character and POV, I can look around and see what else needs my attention, like prose density and setting and how density of image relates to pacing within scene. I could always do brief conversations like this, where what's said has multiple meanings and the subtext is clear to the reader:
"I'm asking you about weather but it actually means 'do you like me?'" she asked.
"I say 'the weather is beautiful' but I really mean 'you have gorgeous eyes,'" he said.
"I'll mention that there's a cloud in the shape of a swan," she said, "But it's really a way I have of expressing longing."
And so on. Obvs I won't have them saying what the meanings of their speeches are like this (though I have a story idea about people who know they're fictional characters in a story and that sort of dialogue intrigues me with its possibilities).
Anyway, for a long time I've let the dialogue do all the work but lately I've come to feel that this sort of free-floating Hemingwegian dialogue is too disconnected from the world, and I want to bring the world more into the story. So I'm lingering longer within conversations, adding in action and description. He'll see a flash of reflected light on the distant highway or whatever. I'm trying not to use much of the sort of personal actions that are so common in dialogue beats (he'll rub his cheekbone, she'll look down and find a smudge of dirt on her left shoe and rub it off on her right calf, etc.); I'm trying to enlarge the reader's attention around the central action, to see that the action is part of the larger world. So I don't just say "a light flashed on the distant highway," I have to make it visible to one of the characters. The wide world has to be directly tied to the story action. And so on.
Anyway, things like this are Major Breakthroughs for me but they seem so very minor and insignificant when I attempt to express my fascination and I can't quite believe that anyone else would be as excited as I am to think about them. So it's that sort of stuff I'm not telling you.