“A good style should show no signs of effort. What is written should seem a happy accident.” – W. Somerset Maugham
Lacking in anything interesting to write about today, I went on the hunt for a thoughtful writer quote, knowing them to be fairly popular with regular readers and random wanderers alike. In the Necessary Job Mind Numbness I’m suffering at the moment, many of the quotes just made me wish I had been dedicating more time to my writing these last few days, and less time selling tea. However, this quote from W. Somerset Maugham immediately caught my attention and set the gears in my brain into motion straight away.
I’ve talked before on my own happy accidents. How I feel that a story is struggling, or I’m not sure how they’ll fall into place, and then the characters seem to just take over and lead the way into a workable, brilliant solution or perhaps a twist that makes everything align so much better than before reveals itself and everything continues on all happy and sunshine and beautiful. They are pleasant little surprises, the moments authors dream of, the times when we writers feel validated that we’re actually on the right track for a change.
But Maugham’s words have me wondering: how much of these occurrences are truly happy accidents, and how much of it is actually all our hard work and dedication manifesting into a job well done? Do we just luck into the sort of writing that feels as though it comes effortlessly, or is there really a lot of work going on there, but we’re so absorbed in this work that we absolutely love that it doesn’t seem to be work at all, it just seems to be natural and flowing?
I agree with Maugham. There’s nothing that thrills me more than stumbling across a phrase that just strikes me as wonderful and seems so natural that I can only admire the writer who thought to scribble those particular words in that particular order in that particular context down and make it work so well. Are they truly happy accidents, or are they something more, and we just don’t realize it? After all, my own happy accidents usually come after a period of distress and concern that what I’m working on is not heading the right way; so perhaps I do work a little harder, though unconsciously, and the results match the extra effort I’m throwing in.
Perhaps I haven’t had enough coffee this morning to ponder such a thing so deeply yet, but I felt it was an interesting rumination. What are your own thoughts on happy accidents? Are they really incidental or do you suppose there’s some actual talent and work lurking underneath them?