Friday, February 06, 2009

On Not Writing

It has been said that not writing is the easiest thing in the world.

Anyone who believes that has never had book-buddies. Because when you start talking about books and why an author did this or that and character motivation and unintentional allusions and layers of meaning, all of a sudden you have people saying, "oh, YOU should write a book!"

And it has taken me years to come to the point where I am quite comfortable replying "no."

Don't get me wrong - I love story. Story and conflict and action and drama (within a story, that is) are YUM. But I'd ever so much rather pick it apart and daydream about it than actually go through the work of making a story.

Now, when it comes to creative mostly-non-fiction, I can create what others think of as "good writing." I still have a piece from ninth grade that my teacher read out loud to the class because the sensory detail was so vivid. But when I think about that piece I feel somewhat uncomfortable - because I made it up. The experience did happen (it was a day at the beach). But the details that were so highly praised came not from my memory, but from my imagination.

I did it again in college. We were supposed to go watch a performance and describe it. That time, I made up the whole darn thing. In fact, my grade probably wouldn't've been nearly as high if I'd followed the instructions, because I had a lot more freedom to create "good descriptive writing" since I wasn't constraining myself to what I might actually have observed.

In reflection I only feel a LITTLE bit guilty (like when I think about how as a Christian I should show respect for our government by NOT SPEEDING) because if truth was that important to the assignment, it should've been checked.

But isn't good writing supposed to be about not faking it? These sorts of experiences leave a bad taste in my mouth. Why is it a good thing to sacrifice honesty for artistry?

So these days, this is the kind of writing I do. Blogposts and other conversationalish niblets: book reviews, comments, forum replies, emails, donorschoose proposals, that sort of thing. And I'm good with that. To my recollection, I have never written something so important to me that I worked on it extensively Nor have I ever felt the desire to write something like that -- except when it's a case of the "oughtas." I do draft my posts, but that's more a case of typing up notes on the fly and then going back to explain them more clearly.

Oh, also, I write lists of things that I better not forget to do. I have LOTS of those. And speaking of my lists, I have one telling me I better put my flash drive in its little pocket while I'm thinking about it!


Image thanks to and


Mr. McGuire said...

Your comment this is the kind of writing I do. Blogposts and other conversationalish niblets: book reviews, comments, reflects a concern I have this year with my students. We are doing a lot of shorter responses, but the ability to write essays of several pages just hasn't been developed.

Clix said...

I have to admit, I wonder if it's as necessary as it used to be. I mean, keeping audience in mind, right? People have more going on and are less willing to be patient. Brevity is the soul of wit, and all.

Post a Comment