If you have followed this blog’s last few posts you will sense a fierce debate in the making – a cauldron of strongly held opinions concocting a brew that could leave you with a serious case of heartburn.
What’s rather fascinating is the passion of how these opinions are voiced on such familiar topics. Sure, they are a good read – a damn good read – but there is nothing really original about them. Opinions of a similar ilk as those smoldering on the 5 writers blog have long been staunchly proclaimed, even defended with evangelical fervor, by well-known authors, writing gurus as well as online hucksters vying for the money of untold masses of unpublished wannabe authors.
The issue at hand is this:
To become a good writer you must
– Write. Even if it’s shit. Or forget being a writer (Silk’s camp)
– But: Writing crap (toned-down version of Silk’s colorful image), alone, will not make you a better writer. Neither will a slavish routine (Paula’s camp)
Let’s recap what’s been put on the table for discussion:
Silk quite passionately argues for writing no matter what. She puts it this way:
“You must write. …. Even if you’re too stressed, or too sad, or too worried, or too tired to care. Even if you’re consumed by some other seductive passion that demands your attention. Even if you fear your words have left you. You must write anyway. Or forget being a writer. Do something else.”
A little harsh. Let’s hear Paula’s rebuttal:
Why write even if you have nothing to say? What’s the point writing crap? She successfully argues as such: “Finding the time, the place the space the motivation to craft better fiction will make you a better writer – even if you don’t do that everyday. I’d rather spend five hours a week, all at one sitting, working on my novel rather than the artificial ‘write every day’.
Then peacemaker Joe weighs in on the debate. “It doesn’t matter. Write every day if that motivates you. Personally, I find that such a goal is good enough to keep me going in the short term, but not good enough for a long term project like a novel. For that, I need to be in love with the idea or the characters or a really comfy chair.”
In other words, do what you want, whatever works best for you. Just keep at it.
Wise words, Joe. Diplomatic too. Totally common sense. Nothing more needs to be said.
We can probably agree that every one of the three posters offers morsels of good advice. No, even some bloody good advice. But I do admit I bristled just a tad when I read what a writer must commit to in order to succeed.
Would anyone really write during times of severe stress? I doubt that many writers would go to such extremes. Personally, I know I am not able nor find the motivation to pursue my writing at a time when life has thrown me a curve. When my energy and attention is needed elsewhere. I know this from personal experience. My writing brain goes AWOL at times like this. Shut down until further notice. Does that mean I should forget about being a writer?
Let’s skip across the muddy field to the opinions offered at the other camp. Such as, write only when you have something to say. Don’t write for its own sake if it’s just crap.
Let’s look at it a little closer. I read that post and I read it again, as much as for the words on screen as for the subtext. On the surface, it makes a lot of sense. I was tempted to proclaim ‘Eureka’. Until I was trying to glean the hidden part of the iceberg. The first red flag was the ‘crap’ part. Sure, it sounds reasonable you should only write quality stuff. But if you really continue to write routinely and regularly (be that every day, or skip one here and there), you won’t be writing crap even if you tried. You will get better at the craft, just like regularly practicing tennis or golf. The second flag was even more poignant. At the risk of having unkind words hurtled at me, I say it anyways: this opinion, I even call it a philosophy, is full of holes. I suspect it’s to justify the super active lifestyle of its author that has, by necessity (or rather choice) relegated writing to a low priority. I suspect that there are elements in this post that could well be an excuse for not writing. I agree that “amassing a treasure box of memories, anecdotes, characters and ideas” like a squirrel gathering acorns has its rewards.
But in the end something’s gotta give. That’s where we come full circle to Silk’s proclamation: “Or forget being a writer. Do something else. Find another route to spiritual, emotional, intellectual fulfillment.”
Sorry, dear friends, it had to be said. I didn’t mince words because we writers are supposed to say it as we see the world. Our world. I am of course fully expecting a rebuttal. All in a good day’s work. Even for a writer on AWOL.
So in which camp will I pitch my tent? Once I pick my morsels from each I will just hang out on the sidelines. I think I’ll sniff around a bit longer for a few more wells of wisdom and common sense.
(Is there room in your tent, Joe?)