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.


Scot said...

And then I notice no one has yet commented on this post, but 4 of us have on the subsequent post. Hmmmm..... Mixmaster of the Universe? At least it's a Sunbeam.

As far as writing, you have am interester perspective (I don't beleive anyone has a truely unique perspective, or if they do, they're unintelligable) and a "good voice." Saying you have a writer's voice is not like saying you have a face for radio, but then again you can dial a pone without using the key pad....
I'm rambling now.

The Trouble With Roy said...

Love the joke in the previous post, but I wanted to comment on this one.

It's not hard to write a book or story or blog entry.

It's hard to write a book or story or blog entry that someone wants to read.

It's even harder to write a book or story or blog entry that someone enjoyed and remembers after reading.

And it's rare that someone writes something that makes you go "Wow."

So I understand the story about the greater excitement at finishing the book than writing the book, but I don't share the sentiment and I think Patchett was being disingenuously humble.

I hope that when I write things, people read them and go "Wow."

By the way -- your blog makes me say "Wow" a lot, so good job!

ReadDanceBliss said...

SNS and TTWR - thank you both for reading and commenting and the kind words! It means a lot to me. I don't pretend that I am "only doing this for me" - I care if people are reading and I am glad you two are!

TTWR - Ann Patchett wasn't being humble - she's not the one who said the reading was a bigger accomplishment - her son said that and she was a little miffed... at least until he explained. So I think it's both a good anecdote and a good reflection on her that she tells it!