16 October 2011

Writing as a Profession

I'm tired of reading about the profession of writing. I've read a few posts by "writers" lately who are so focused on defining the parts of writing as a pro, or establishing themselves as a full time writer, that they seem to be distracted from capturing what called them to be a writer in the first place. That is, they seem to be forgetting that they are called to create something beautiful.

Maybe I'm splitting hairs, and I know I have a lot of the same dreams - I DO want to write full time - however, the last thing I want is to be distracted by this notion that I'm only a professional.

Am I a romantic? A flake? Do I place writing on too high a pedestal?

Here's a quote by Pico Iyer that I really like:

The less conscious one is of being "a writer," the better the writing. And though reading is the best school of writing, school is the worst place for reading. Writing...should be as spontaneous and urgent as a letter to a lover, or a message to a friend who has just lost a parent...and writing is, in the end, that oddest of anomalies: an intimate letter to a stranger.

(I'm trying to fix that whole "school is the worst place for reading" thing, but I think it's true. Read about my attempt here.)

I see a lot of junk out there - especially what's written for the young adult. When I was in college, I read a series of essays by Frederick Buechner called Speak What We Feel (Not What We Ought to Say): Reflections on Literature and Faith. The essays are dedicated to four writers: Gerard Manley Hopkins, Mark Twain, G.K. Chesterton, and Shakespeare. Buechner states that even four literary giants like the ones listed above only had so much to say; he tackles what he deems to be their greatest work, and then links it with what are the longings of every soul.

If that's true, if someone like Twain or Shakespeare were only at their greatest once, how much more is it true of those of us who read less and write more?

I'll now step down from my soapbox, but I think you know what I mean. There are too many books that say so little, and they tend to say it over and over again (sorry, Harry; sorry Katniss).

I know I've said this before, and I really do try and take my own advice, but I'm convinced writers should read four times as much as they write. At least. Because, after all, a prolific writer is not always a good one. Harper Lee and Kenneth Grahame are two great examples of writers who I wish would have kept writing. But they said what they had to say, said it very well, and then they sat down.

I want to be more concerned with conveying a message to whomever will hear it than with my professional status; a message I'm convicted to tell, a message I have to tell or my head will explode. Otherwise I'm wasting my time. Or yours.

I'm sitting down now.

1 comment:

Chris Phillips said...

you are mot definitely a flake.

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