Monday, October 19, 2009

One more digression... Writing: are you a writer, or should you give it up and pursue something else?

This is an honest digression, a heartfelt insight into a little something called my brain : )

I've written a few things, but I hesitate to call myself a writer. How can you tell if you're a writer? This article in The Village Voice will tell you how to find that out (there is some strong language, actually one strong word used many times).

And Colleen Lindsay, a literary agent sums the article up very nicely, here.

Many people who teach writing or give seminars or lead critique circles will say over and over again that writing should never be discouraged. A critique should never be so blunt as to include the words, "You have no talent. Give it up."

But I secretly don't agree with that. The Village Voice article explains very nicely why. If people whose business it is to know such things are kind enough to tell you that you should probably pursue other talents, it's probably best to listen and free yourself to find whatever your real talent is.

I haven't exactly found mine yet. My writing isn't terrible, but in all honesty, I know that it lacks something. Just like I know that the batch of fudge I made last week lacked something. It was okay, but it didn't possess that oomph that leaves you still salivating after you've swallowed and makes you sneak back into the kitchen to cut just one more little nibble off of that velvety slab of lusciousness.

Okay, so maybe my talent is candymaking, because I can actually tell when it hasn't come out right. And I can tell when it has and it's oh-so-drool-inducing-good. And because, although I can't say that my writing is the best in the whole world (not even close), I can say, with almost utter certainty, that if you search the world over, you will never find a caramel that can top mine.

And maybe that's a good analogy to use. Suppose you knew someone whose cooking was hard to stomach. Now suppose they confided in you that they wanted to open a restaurant and they wanted your opinion of their cooking - was it good enough to become a successs in the restaurant business?

Would you suggest that they learn the basics? Attend a cooking school? Tell them not to quit their day job?

Or would you encourage them and then watch as they poured all of their time and perhaps their life savings into a restaurant? Which would fail. Because your friend can't cook. And you knew it.

It would be nice if someone would tell me outright not to quit my day job when it comes to my writing if it's really not all that great. It would actually be freeing. Of course it would hurt, but I learned way back in elementary school how to deal with disappointment. I'd get over it. And then move on to better things.


Ocean Girl said...

It is really hard to say because it boils down to commercialism. What sells has nothing or not much to do with real talent. Most of the time, the way I see it.

Even the geniuses of the past like the painters, their artwork was worth nothing in their lifetime but worth millions when they were gone.

And look at McDonalds, is there any cooking involved in that restaurant.

And as far as listening to advise, that depends too. You want to listen to Simon Cowell or Paula Abdul. But I think it has arrived at the lowest point when you have to take advise from one Ellen DeGeneres, who has no relationship or experience to or in the music industry what so ever.

It is what sells my friend.

- Now you got me going :)

adrienne said...

My, you are having deep thoughts lately. I enjoyed your Bipedal Woman post...maybe they really thought she only got up on two feet because it’s easier to do hair and make-up that way. :)

As for the writing issue, I think about that a lot. Why do I keep trying to create a well-crafted 500 word picture book? Maybe for the challenge, or the nagging feeling I’ll regret it if I give up. Besides, the ideas just won’t go away.

I bet your first batch of caramels (or attempt at candy making) wasn’t the world’s best. How do you recognize the best, unless you’ve made a few attempts and then realized the better version?

So how do you know it isn’t the same for your stories? Even if an expert told you that you couldn’t write, would you trust that opinion completely? You could be just one step away from finding the missing ingredient.

If you keep coming back to it, you probably enjoy it – and if you enjoy it, you might as well keep doing it.

ICQB said...

Hi Ocean Girl!

There is indeed no cooking going on at McDonalds : )

And you're right. Dan Brown might not be the best writer, but his stories sell, sell, sell.

ICQB said...

Hi adrienne!

Yes, there is a learning curve to writing, and you have to give yourself that chance to grasp the ins and outs.

But I also know my limitations. I painted a painting once a-la-Bob Ross. It came out pretty nicely, but I know that that's the limit of my talents as a painter. That one painting style - and probably that one painting.

I think my writing may be like that. Okay, and even a little bit impressive to people I know - but nothing to hang in a gallery, if you know what I mean.

And that's ok.

jo©o said...

It's the equivalent of "It's not WHAT you know, but WHOM you know".

Look back at lots of early 20th C writers, and you wonder how they ever managed to get published.
Too many authors out there these days, look at the blogs alone.
And too many that are really quite competent or even really good.
Take Nevil Shute: how on earth did he get anything out there? Writing is poor, stories are feeble. I could name lots of similar authors.

And contemporary ones, as they are so bad, I can't read more than a few paragraphs.

Your first commenter sums it all up nicely. So don't be discouraged. Two centuries ago you would have been a star. Look at those hopeless books by Jane Austen.

She writes nice TV scripts, but her novels bore the life out of one. I do not believe that there is anybody out there who has read 'Emma' from cover to cover. It just is not possible, unless you want to die from tedium.

"...on little bits of ivory with so a fine brush as to produce little effect after much labour"

Well, at least she was honest and saw her own shortcomings.

And think on it: your writing, unlike your caramels, is totally non-fattening.:-)

ICQB said...

Hi Jo!

Thanks, I'm smiling : )