Monday, January 31, 2011

On Writing

This past week has been somewhat less productive than I would have wanted.  But I did make some mental in roads and sometimes that is the most important thing.  I had some serious distractions, but that is something we must all work around.  So this week I submitted an entry to a flash fiction contest, finished a short story and presented it to my writers group, and worked out some plot issues on the novel. When I write it here, it sounds like a lot, but it was, for the most part, wrapping up loose ends, not really producing anything new of substance. Mostly, though, I came to grips with what I was trying to accomplish as a writer.  I have a really bad memory, so I will probably have to come to grips with it again, multiple times.

Believe it or not, part of the light bulb going off was reading the romance novel that I reviewed in my "What I Am Reading Now"  segment.  I was reminded that a good portion of reading and writing is for entertainment.  I had gotten very caught up in writing literature, which in my mind is different than just writing a good story that people enjoy.  Don't get me wrong, I do want to be a good writer, a really good writer.  Ultimately though, you can be an awesome writer and if your work is not engaging and fun to read, it doesn't matter, because no one will want to sit down and read it.

This was emphasized by the introduction to "The Best American Short Stories 2010" written by guest editor Richard Russo.  He related a tale of a question and answer period with Nobel Prize Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer.  When asked

what the purpose of literature was, the ninety plus year old man answered, "To entertain and instruct."  In that order, no matter what.  Mr. Russo went on to explain further that  although  current conventional wisdom said that good literature instructed the reader by "forcing them to confront hard truths,"  he had started to have his doubts.  "Lately I'd come to suspect that the desire to show people a good time is a generous impulse rooted in humility.  The artist acknowledges both the existence and importance of others.  He comes to us bearing a gift he hope will please us.  He starts out making the thing for himself, perhaps, but at some point he realizes he wants to share it, which is why he spends long hours reshaping the thing, lovingly honing its details in the hopes it will please us, that it will be a gift worth the giving and receiving."

It brought me to tears, as it does now, because that is exactly how I feel about writing.  When I post something on the blog, or give someone a draft to read it is a gift that I am giving.  But what you may or may not realize is that in the act of reading my work or listening to it, you are giving me a precious gift as well.  You are giving me the gift of your time and attention, that what I have written is important enough to set aside the myriad of other things calling to you that day so that you can pay attention to my words on the page.

So in that vein, I would like to thank the readers of this blog, my trusted readers who I torture with first drafts.  Each page view and comment is a little gift back to me that I cherish.  Thank you.


  1. You're welcome... :-)

    And on that note, I wanted to pass on something I recently read about writing and it made me think of the drafts we've seen so far. I've recently finished Stephen King's latest "Full Dark, No Stars" and in his Afterword, he had this to say:

    "But when it comes to fiction, the writer's only responsibility is to look for the truth inside his own heart. It won't always be the reader's truth, or the critic's truth, but as long as it's the writer's truth -- as long as he or she doesn't truckle, or hold out his or her hat to Fashion -- all is well. For writers who knowingly lie, for those who substitute unbelievable human behavior for the way people really act, I have nothing but contempt."

    When I read this, I thought of the two drafts I'd seen already because the people in that writing felt "true" and "honest". They were real people that I could identify in the story and that makes for a compelling read every time.

    Please keep up the good work and keep letting us sneak a peek from time to time!

  2. I really have enjoyed reading your blog. I get a glimpse into your life. Keep your mind engaged and fingers typing. :-)