Saturday, December 15, 2007
On Not Writing
What English-language poet has not at times rebelled against a language in which the suffix -s makes a noun plural and a verb singular? ---W H Auden
So, as I've mentioned before, people around me seem to think I'm meant to be a Writer. I myself haven't really believed this since around about the 6th grade, but at least a few of my friends are convinced I will someday write novels and lots of other people are always asking, "Do you write?" with an unmistakable tone of "You idiot, why aren't you Writing?"
Also as I've mentioned before, I recently went to see Ann Patchett, author of the fantastic memoir Truth & Beauty and the lovely novel Bel Canto, read from her new book Run. The reading part was great, but the Q&A that followed was even better, and one of the best bits was the story about this extremely humbling conversation she had with her stepson on the day she had completed both writing her latest novel and reading one by Henry James. "Oh, you finished the new book, that's cool," the son remarked. Then, "Wow!! You finished the James? That's great! Congratulations! What did you think?!" and on in this breathless excitement.
Why did the former accomplishment garner such lukewarm praise, such a muted response in comparison to the latter? "Consider how many people have read all of Wings of the Dove compared to how many have written a book," he told her. She had to admit he was right; in a way, it was a larger accomplishment to have been the consumer than the producer. In this instance, the consumers, the readers, were a far more elite group.
Smiling ruefully over this anecdote later that night is when I first happened on the snarky and wonderful 101 Reasons To Stop Writing. Messages from the universe, gentle reader?
Well, but then I post a nothing post about *not* posting in response to someone messaging me "why don't you write in your blog anymore" and I immediately get five comments urging me to keep writing. Mixed messages from the universe, then, my five gentle readers.