Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Foolish Writer

By Julie Wright

I know. My day to post is almost over. But it is still Tuesday and I've neglected several Tuesdays over the past month in my quest to complete a novel. I couldn't neglect yet one more.

One of my very dear friends from college confided in me he wanted to write a book. (good thing he doesn't read my blogs or he'd be irritated that I didn't keep his confidence--though none of you would know him anyway) And he's finally decided to get serious about it. He took a writing course in college, but let the fear of writing something stupid convince him to not write at all.

I can testify, I have written many a stupid thing (And to my discredit, I have stupid things published). But I can also say that within all that stupidity lies a nugget or two of brilliance. And because of all that stupidity, I've gotten pretty good at what I do.

Shannon Hale taught a class at a writer's conference once. She started it out by explaining she'd laminated all of her rejection letters end to end. Then she proceeded to roll the length of rejections out. The laminated papers rolled clear to the back of the room. She then said she had a pottery teacher who told her she would never be able to create a useful piece of pottery until she'd made her one thousand and first piece (or something like that . . .maybe it was a million . . . maybe it was a hundred . . . my memory isn't that good, but trust me, it was a bunch).

She likened her pottery to her writing. Until she'd written all the mistakes out, she would never be proficient.

Anton Chekov said,
". . . only he is an emancipated thinker who is not afraid to write foolish

Had I always been afraid of writing foolish things, I would never have written at all. I still sometimes write foolishness. But I allow myself that. Without practice and learning, there can be no improvement.

I feel emancipated. I do not fear to be foolish. I fear not writing at all.

Emancipate yourselves and go write . . . write the foolish, the garish, the absurd, and the brilliant. Write it all. For what is humanity without the full spectrum of all things?


Annette Lyon said...

This is totally awesome, Julie. I KNOW this intellectually, but the longer I write and publish, the more I worry about writing something stupid--getting worse (or just not improving). But that mentality can be really stifling.

Sue said...

Thank you for this Julie. I've been frozen in place on my manuscript for the last few weeks. This helped. Thanks.

Curtis said...

On most days, it seems that everything I've ever written is fluff and nonsense, and there isn't a nugget of brilliance in the entire body of my work. This amounts to about 360 days of the year. It's the other five days that keep me going.

And thank heaven for leap year.

Good post.

Josi said...

Wise words, my dear!

Heather B. Moore said...

Funny, Curtis!

Julie--wise advice. I love it! Whenever I hear a book criticized, I think--it could very well be mine. Writing and reading are so biased. All of us have to overcome that fear of rejection!

The Golfing Librarian said...

Thank you, thank you thank you!!!

Danette said...

See that's why I follow this blog. The words of wisdom and the encouragement are priceless. And the humor enjoyable (Heather's last post made me laugh with the chuckle of 'you aren't kidding' I'm glad I"m not the only one out there) SO thanks for all your blogs--talented authors!! (my bow)

Heather Justesen said...

I was just telling a new writer something like this the other day. You can't be afraid that your writing will stink, even if it stinks when you first start to write that day, because sometimes you have to write a whole lot of bad stuff before you can start writing the good stuff (and as I'm about to start the 3,497th edit on the first book I ever started (it feels like that many, anyway), in the hopes that a MAJOR rewrite makes it good enough to show to people without my wanting to crawl under a rock--I know what I'm talking about.

Jennifer said...

Yes, it's true - part of what has held me back from finishing my first draft of a book I've been writing for a DECADE is the fear of writing something foolish. I'm not just afraid of failure, either. I'm afraid of success. What if my book actually got on the shelf and then the whole /world/ could judge it? It's scary.

By the way, I heard Shannon Hale speak and I'm pretty sure she said "100" So, not to fear, you won't have to write quite so much rubbish before you come up with something great. :)

Thanks for the reminder!

Kimberly said...

I needed to read this tonight. Desperately actually.