Friday, November 9, 2007

Who is a Writer?

A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for
other people. ~Thomas Mann

I just have to comment on this quote. I read it and thought: Only another writer would understand and appreciate this quote!

People who say, "Oh, I think I'll write a book," like they're going to clip their toenails or dust a bookshelf annoy me. They make it sound like writing a book is E-A-S-Y. That all you do is sit down, la-de-da, and write a book.

They know nothing of rough drafts and rewrites and writer's block and rewrites and writers conferences and rewrites and critiques and rewrites and query letters and rewrites and REJECTION LETTERS and rewrites and learning the craft while living in this alternate universe of the writing world.

Ahem. I feel better now that I got that off my chest.

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Patricia said...

And it isn't just what you have listed related to writing for publication...ALL writing is more difficult - letters, posts, comments, journaling - because if others are anything like me, even the simplest writing task challenges me to "get it right."

Beth K. Vogt said...

It's true with writing magazine articles too. I've been known to write 12 drafts of an article before submitting it. 12.
(With thanks to my writers group, once again.)

Linda Harris said...

Oh, yes, the rewrites! (I even rewrite my e-mails.) The chapter I'm writing now for my book just seems to defy my attempts to make it sing. There are a few lovely notes here and there, but the melody just hasn't come through yet.

Tiffany Stuart said...

I thought I was the only writer that thinks writing is hard. Thanks for the quote. I'm the slowest writer I know. I reread each sentence over and over again. Rework it. Change it back to what I wrote to begin with. And then change it back to the reworded version. And finally settle on deleting the whole thing.

And I feel better.

Anonymous said...

This is so true. I suppose as with many other professions, there are certain characteristics of the writing life that only another writer would understand.

I'm a night owl and most of my best work is produced between midnight and 3 a.m. Yet the non-writers in my life poke fun at me for sleeping until 11 a.m. I get the feeling they think I'm out partying rather than working and being productive.

Still, it's a writer's life for me!

-Melissa Donovan
Writing for Writers

Debra said...

So, what's the hold-up?

Obstacles, impediments, hurdles:
1. craft -- the more careful one learns to become, the more one knows enough to consider (and rethink or revise).
2. subject matter -- any subject matter has its 'already there' -- what's been said before, the generally received wisdom, the cliches, the experts, the specialists, the iconoclasts, the innovators ... and the writer has to be clear about where what s/he is saying fits in to all that.
3. audience -- who am I writing for, anyway? What is the mind of the person I'm talking to like? Can I know? What am I assuming? What should I assume? These questions are not always adequately answered at the outset.
4. Das Es -- What holds it up, me back, that off? 'It' .. the unknown, the unconscious; the Else .. the other, the more, the unconsidered, whatever else there might be. Not to mention whatever personal stake the writer has in 1, 2, and 3 above, and in keeping Das Es from entering the field of 'vision.'

But this has in various ways all been mentioned before. I like Slavoj Zizek's strategy: he writes books, he says. That is what he does, basically. But he does not ever sit down to write the book he has 'conceived.' What he does is take a lot of notes, jotting down ideas ... but finds that he 'jots' in a fairly cogent manner, and at some length. So in the end, he just sits down to edit. As he says, "Writing disappears. I don't have to do it, because it has disappeared."
And yet, what he does is write books. Hmmm ... curious.
I love the Mann quote from which all these musings began; I am grateful for its comfort and consolation, and wonder if it was that for Mann, too. I also like (but cannot remember to whom it should be attributed) the assertion that "There is no great writing -- only great editing." Problem is, editing is the greater part of what most people who say they are writing are doing. It's a long, foggy zone of slippery categories from author to proofreader -- what one is doing at any given moment changes, and it all demands the utmost attention. That would be hard for anybody, wouldn't it?

Audra Marie said...

LOL - great post! :)

Heather@Mommymonk said...

Haven't been here in a few days and this one caught me! Oh man, I had no idea how hard writing was until I started trying it! I'm reading others' comments and thinking, I can't even make a comment without fretting over my verbage, grammar, punctuation...What kind of an impression do my comments make? Oh, the anguish!

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