Writing Like Tolstoy

*Thanks to Mary for inspiring this idea

Dear Reader,

Writing is not always fun. This is a feeling that many authors are happy to share in interviews. Sometimes a writer can feel like they are going crazy when they are writing. It seems that there are hundreds of different pressure points inserted on the writer. The writer must do what they can not to notice this, but it is almost impossible not to. This is not to imply that everything a writer does is stressful, but, on some level, it is. There is always the temptation of doom. At any moment, there can be a collapse of the mind and everything can go downhill. Anytime anyone is creating something that they care about, something that is dear to them that they do not want to lose, this is normal to have.

Perhaps another reason for this anxiety is that the artist knows and remembers what they have personally been affected by. If you have read, watched, or viewed some great piece of art, it is going to stay with you. It is only natural to want to give the same quality that you have been given. But when the artists that you are inspired by are some of the greatest artists—such as Leo Tolstoy—the pressure to recreate can be immense. How does someone try to be Tolstoy? Tolstoy is an immense figure in literature. As with most immense figures, he cannot be easily defined. Some could call out some of the topics that Tolstoy explored and use that as evidence of his essence. Others will say that his writing style is what defined him. Still others will point to the times that Tolstoy lived in and say that such a phenomenon cannot be recreated.

This final side may have a good point. Artists should not try to copy each other. What they create must be personal without sounding like a teenage diary, sophisticated without being incomprehensible, true to life while still having a shape and structure within it, and expressing as many emotions as possible without inserting useless emotions.

How can anyone do all of this? There are two ways to do this. One way to do this is to set a checklist of all of these emotions and requirements and make sure that your art has all of this in it. You can make it a rigid process. If you do not have any of these requirements, you can make sure that they are inserted in without anyone noticing that you have just inserted these requirements in your art.

However, I am fairly certain that this road has a lot of broken glass on it. Now, if you want to go and live your life like this, it is your choice. It is also your choice to try and just listen to what your art wants. Don’t worry about requirements made by some unknown source. (And really, who determines these requirements? Critics? Fans? Past historical figures? Artists themselves? And why should you listen to these people?) Just go with what you feel is right. This is the road I have started to go on and I feel that I am getting much better results. I can still panic about the quality of what I am creating, but I do not have to worry about trying to please others with what I create. Art is meant to bring emotions to people, and if it fails to give anything worthy to the artist, it will probably fail to give anything to the audience. This, I think, is the only rule.

Reader, if you have any experiences with art, feel free to leave them in the comments section.


Jumbled Writer


2 Responses to Writing Like Tolstoy

  1. What excellent advice. I have always wanted to be as good as those lofty writers who create masterpieces (like Tolstoy) – but I am learning to be myself first – no apology, no regrets. When I can read even a sentence or a paragraph that I like – I feel I have accomplished something.
    The pain of writing to me is always wanting to be in the ‘mood’ and very often I’m not.

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