Backtracking to one of the great supporters who liked my last post, I came across a blog post about Annie Dillard and her book The Writing Life. I’ve learned from my years as a aging human being that everything in life is subjective, so this is not a critique or criticism of Annie’s work or life. I’ve never actually read any of her books but she seems to be able to whip words like Zorro, leaving her mark on the ART of writing, if not the industry of writing, like a bandit in black.
One of the interesting things about writers is that while we all may share the same psychotic obsession with stories, how we tell these stories is open to many different interpretations. Just the other day, while offline and pondering things in a way I haven’t done since Pre-Internet, I realized that reading all those books on writing actually set my writing back years. You see I used to subscribe to magazines in those PI years, periodicals like Broken Pencil, Writer’s Journal and any other magazine or book I could get my hands on. While barely out of my teens I had a book on how to write a book, a book on how to get published, a book on how to get published without writing a book, etc, etc. All those books really did for me was make me feel like the task was too great, the chances of success too slim, the craft too difficult to learn. Reading about Annie’s work as a new writer and you might hit the same wall; after all, she has won numerous awards and yet perhaps like me you’ve never even heard of her. If an author so well respected is so relatively unknown, if her books with their tight prose and magical word manipulation are not widely popular, than what chance do the rest of us have with our new stories?
I’ve come to realize we spend far too much time reading about HOW to do things and not enough time DOING them. I was so put off by the daunting task of writing a novel that I went to comics; an industry with no standards, few talented writers and a minimum amount of ‘classics’. I believed comics were easy to make and easier to sell, but there are far more challenges involved in making comics than there is in making a book. Annie Dillard’s only written two prose novels, simply because it takes her YEARS to write a book. I don’t want to take that long, I don’t see the point in going over each line, neurotically dwelling on every syllable and sentence. While I do want to put out the best work I can and as much as I hate typos and errors, I always keep this one statement in mind:
Nothing is ever perfect to everyone.
No matter how much hard work you put into something, there is always someone who is going to completely misinterpret, fail to understand, or dislike your work no matter how much time and effort you put into it. I’m always a little disappointed when someone says they can’t read Shakespeare. Personally I thought Salem’s Lot was a horrible book, but many will claim it was one of King’s best. So no matter what you do, some are going to hate it and some are going to love it. The important thing is finding out how to get the book into the hands of people more LIKELY to love it (and hopefully those who don’t won’t post a review on Amazon).
In the end all those books were pretty much useless. The digital era came and the entire publishing industry transformed into something else. I never, ever have to write a query letter if I don’t want to (and personally, I’d rather shoot myself in the foot than do so).
Sometimes you can read too much on a subject. The actual craft of writing, of stringing together words into sentences and sentences into stories, is something that should be taken very seriously and getting it right takes years of practice. I’m just finding my comfort zone now. Like the blogger from Lightning Droplets, I too am skeptical of routines. Who has time to do the same thing at the same time every time?? I’d rather write ten pages and then take ten days off than write a single page every day. The best analogy for the art of writing is sex; it cannot be scheduled, overly obsessed over or forced. It has to be cool, casual and a little bit dangerous. Otherwise, why not just read Shakespeare?
Lightning Droplets blog can be found at: http://lightningdroplets.wordpress.com/