On Writing: Resistance

Awesome post. I have been very lucky to have a supportive family, but I know others aren’t as lucky. And no matter what a writer’s situation, what he said about Shelley and Shakespeare is so important to keep in mind. “They will read your words and pronounce you No Hemingway, no Jackson, no McCarthy. They will probably be correct in this latter judgment. It doesn’t matter. Hemingway was no Faulkner, Jackson was no Shelley, McCarthy is no Steinbeck. None of them were Shakespeare.”
Thank you, Laird Barron, for such a great post.

To new writers, and especially to young writers: expect resistance. I am forty-three. I’ve written since I was five. I know one thing if I know anything.

They will try to stop you.

Resistance to artistic aspiration is typical. In general, people aren’t going to leap onboard your dream train. It’s cute for a teenager to talk of becoming a novelist, or a poet. The gloss is tarnished once you travel beyond the solar system of middling youth and into young adulthood. If it has not already begun, it will begin. If it has begun, it will now begin in earnest. People will gently, or not so gently, undermine your artistic endeavors. How will you pay off your loans? How will you pay off a mortgage? How will you afford a family? What will become of you?

Grow up. Get real. It’s for your own good. We love you. Stop, just stop.

They will…

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Sifting through Voices

Thanks to Saritza @epubagent on Twitter I was able to read a great blog post by Maureen Johnson which was responding to a fifteen-year-old asking about how to deal with criticism.  One of the best elements of the post was how Ms. Johnson described all the different kinds of voices one might hear about one’s writing, and she compared it to sifting through sand to find buried treasure. 

At the same time, her list of voices showed how other writers might want to help someone with a project by offering advice, but none of them seemed to identify first what it was the writer was trying to accomplish.  Instead, they seemed like the projection of egos.  They were only saying what they would do if it was their story.  This may have been the only way they knew to help.  However, to add to what Ms. Johnson was saying, I think the best way to find a trustworthy voice of criticism is to find someone who is willing to listen as well. As I and other English instructors tell our students, it is about trying to find out what the writer wants to say and helping them say it better.  That does not mean turning a toaster into a tractor or the mom in the story into a dad or a sister unless the writer herself can see how such a change would benefit the telling of her story.  

And this of course comes back to the sifting through the voices for that buried treasure.  The ideal is to find someone to help a writer sift through her work to find the treasure inside that and make it shine, but failing that, one can also evaluate the strength and value of suggestions given, sifting through their voices for hidden gems.  

As Ms. Johnson points out, criticism can hurt, but it is a necessary part of writing. There are so many facets to good writing that we must polish and polish, and sometimes take a chisel to it first, and then polish and polish some more until our work is the diamond that we want it to be. 



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