When they sit next to you, they see possibility.
June 26, 2011 5:40 PM   Subscribe

Anatomy of a Writer. "Like the protagonist of 1984, who risked his life to purchase a notebook and signed it away by filling it with words, writers sometimes find themselves huddled in a corner, crouching onto their guilty pleasure protectively, hoping that their spouse, or friends won’t catch them at it."
posted by Phire (13 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Jesus, I wish. Instead, here you are, blogging about it.
posted by elektrotechnicus at 5:49 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some writers were rejected so many times that they decided to publish their books on their own.

posted by localroger at 5:50 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

That's not an anatomy, that's a case study.
posted by TwelveTwo at 5:53 PM on June 26, 2011

You have to catch them in the act and rub their face in it. How else will they learn?
posted by hal9k at 6:20 PM on June 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think this is heavy on romance, short on reality. I know tidy artists. And the writer I know irl get up, sit down and get on with it without scribbling, guilty looks or little notebooks. The War of Art is helpful.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:20 PM on June 26, 2011

who would turn down a nice, fat check from an editor?

Pretty sure editors don't write the checks.
posted by smcameron at 6:42 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

This reminds me of a lot of writers in my life. The ones who want to Be an Author more than they want to do any of the trudging or getting better. The hard thing is that a bunch of those latter people are people I *like*, in general. But it's hard when I get an invitation on Facebook to "Purchase So-and-So's first book here, on Lulu!" That's not Proust. It's certainly not really that secretive, although those same people tend not to share even snippets of their writing until they want me, a friend, to spend $20 buying the book that is either too long or too short and has definitely not been through any kind of editing.

Much like this blog post.
posted by gracedissolved at 6:44 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey everyone, I'm not really any different from a professional lion tamer. Except that I have to work a day job to get by. Also, if I tried to tame an actual lion it would probably kill me.
posted by nanojath at 6:46 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

"Writing is nothing to be ashamed of. But do it in private, and wash your hands afterward."
— Robert A. Heinlein
posted by philip-random at 6:47 PM on June 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Has anyone else noticed that articles like these always trot out supposed stats about rejections/publication track records that are at least 100 years old? All that's missing is the "Gone With the Wind/War and Peace/The Cat In The Hat was rejected 100 times!" trope.
posted by mynameisluka at 7:03 PM on June 26, 2011

As someone who's done a fair bit of writing, this has always summed up the life for me. I'm just happy to have a day job.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:06 PM on June 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

I know a few writers, so I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I can't think of any who viewed writing as something that was shameful, i.e., something to hope one's spouse, family or friends never caught one doing. So this person is coming from a perspective on writing that's completely alien to me. It's never been an act of courage for me to come out as a writer to anyone I've ever met, even before I was professionally published. If anything I was all too eager to let people know.

I suspect this theory of the courageous writer is a coping mechanism for this person to rationalize the time and effort they put into writing, and if it is, well, that's fine. Whatever works. But I personally would define a courageous writer as someone who is actually doing something courageous by writing, and risks much if not all by doing so.

Likewise, this bit:

Published writers have the luxury to dedicate themselves to words for days on end, while others do it as an act of rebellion, at night, on the train-ride to work, or during breaks

Indicates the person who wrote must not know all that many published writers. Most published writers have day jobs, and they do their own writing around it, say, at night, on the train ride to work, or during breaks. A few are able to write full-time on their own recognizance, but they're a small minority and always have been.
posted by jscalzi at 5:13 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I write books for fun, and I dream about getting my preciousss novels out in the world at some point. As such, the whole thing makes me want to smack the author around, but a couple bits stood out as particularly bad:

...what writing really is and should be: a subjective art form. As such, the words we write have an intrinsic value that goes beyond the way others perceive them.

No. The whole point of language is to communicate. Obfuscation is a layer, there. Being cryptic can be part of the fun - making a message that only a small portion of the audience will figure out is the point of riddles and the like. Overall, though, the entire point of using words is to get an idea out of your brain and convey it to someone else. When you stop doing that, you might as well let go of the keyboard, and just rub yourself directly.

It might just mean that, as Nietzsche wrote in Human, all Too Human, readers are just not refined or enlightened enough to be able to appreciate you. (Ok, there is also the small chance that your work might just totally and objectively suck, but it’s a small chance, so let’s not think about it.)

That isn't just hubris, but profoundly lazy.
posted by mordax at 7:40 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

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