Everyone who writes has their own reasons for doing it, their own way of doing it, their own justification for what and how they do it. What I think is crap and hack is produced by people who believe in what they’re doing.
Note: when I say “writing” I’m talking about writing fiction because that’s what I do.
I went to Clarion West a number of years ago. For anyone who doesn’t know, Clarion is a six-week intensive workshop for science fiction/fantasy/horror. A different writer comes in each week to teach. Participants try to write a new story each week to present to the group for critique. It was mostly a good experience for me. But at my Clarion there was pressure to write things that conformed to the tastes of editors at the big genre magazines, things that would sell to those editors. People who wrote traditional genre were more likely expected to succeed than those who didn’t.
That way of thinking interfered with my development. After the workshop it took me a while to understand what I wanted to do. I wanted to write things that came from me, that were uniquely me (and get them published). I can’t write for a market. I don’t want to write for a market. Theme anthologies? Forget it.
Persevering with my own vision hasn’t been easy. Trends and fads come and go, writers pick up on them, get books published, etc. None of that is for me unless by accident.
6 thoughts on “Occasional Notes On Writing”
I can commiserate with your plight. The things in fiction that I find enjoyable are not necessarily salable and it creates quite a dilemma. But rather than chase the fickle wind of consumer trends, I’d rather take my own road. I doubt Hemmingway or Austen or Mann worried too much about the commercial prospects of their masterpieces. At least not to the absurd level that fiction mills create in the authors of today. Keep fighting the good fight.
I know so little about Clarion–just that the Clarion graduating classes (or whatever one calls them) seem to remain friends–that I found that criticism interesting. Often I think it doesn’t matter what we think about our writing (although we feel the need to know and declare, and evidently that is good for us), that the only thing that matters is the made thing and whether it is a living experience. I always found Melville’s famous, tormented comments about his books to be so curious: “Dollars damn me. . . . What I feel most moved to write, that is banned,—it will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the other way I cannot. So the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches.” But he did grand work in story, novella, novel, poem, long poem, and essay.
I guess I’m with Melville. Main thing with me is why do it if I’m not doing it they way I want to.
Agree. I always feel that if you try to write what you would like to read, other people will also.
Stumbled across a tv special last night: a documentary of 4 high school students who had won an award to spend a workshop and followup with playwright Edward Albee. What I saw was wonderful, an older successful man telling these driven, serious, worried kids to listen only to what their inner voice was telling them, don’t plan, don’t make outlines, don’t get in the way of what you already know, and don’t know, about your play. You could see this look of relief come over their faces as he gave them permission to write from their hearts and minds!
Plays, not books, but we playwrights have it too, “don’t write a play with more than 4 characters if you want to see it produced”, blah blah blah……
Hey Cynthia. That sounds like a great documentary. I’d love to hear someone like Albee talking to a group like that. Creation is creation, whether prose or plays.