On Writing

I most likely will never write a novel or even a short story, but this post on Kate’s Book Blog tempts me just the tiniest bit to give it a try — not because I think I can write a good novel or story, but because it makes me realize just how much I’d learn from the attempt. If I did it (which I almost certainly won’t — I’m just playing with ideas here), I wouldn’t show it to anybody, but would do it solely for my own educational purposes. Because Kate’s post makes me realize how little I pay attention to the technical details of what I read. I’m aware of some things like plot structure, point of view, creating scenes, showing vs. telling, etc., but I don’t really get into the nitty-gritty of it. If I tried creating my own scenes, though, or if I had to worry about how to get characters from one place to another or had to choose what details to include and what ones not or if I had to struggle to get the point of view right, I’d be seeing the matter in another way entirely. I’m a believer in the value of learning by doing; don’t you think this would be a fabulous learning experience?

Kate is writing about Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, which I haven’t been interested in up until now, because I’m not that kind of a writer, but now I’m intrigued. Perhaps I’d learn a lot about reading even if I’m not exactly Prose’s intended audience, although Prose’s subtitle, “A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write them,” leaves open the issue of audience, implying that the two groups of people mentioned might not necessarily overlap completely.

The Hobgoblin is writing a novel, of course, and I’ve got a good friend who’s a novelist, and I read other bloggers who write fiction, and I’m interested in the insights they have into the craft of fiction and I find myself wanting those insights too.

And one more point about writing, unrelated to the above: I’ve been thinking about Litlove’s post on the way we compare ourselves to others and how easy it is to get jealous of what other writers can do. I don’t get jealous of fiction writers or poets, as I don’t write in those genres, and although I write academic criticism now and then, I don’t get jealous of other people’s ability to write that sort of thing, maybe because I don’t feel like that kind of writing is all that important to me, but I sometimes get jealous of what other bloggers can do. When I began blogging and spending a significant amount of time reading other people’s blogs, I’d get overwhelmed sometimes because I found so much good writing of the type I could never do myself. I really don’t understand those who think there’s no good writing on blogs, because if you look around just a little bit, you’ll find tons of it.

Blogging has been interesting for me because I’ve found I care about my writing in a way I haven’t before. I’ve had moments of feeling so inadequate as a writer that I’ve thought to myself, either you stop writing entirely to get rid of the bad feelings or you accept that you will never be able to do what those other people do and instead begin to enjoy their ability. And it’s possible, at least in moments, to accept that some people are just outrageously talented and to appreciate that rather than get jealous. As I wrote in a comment over at Litlove’s, surrounding oneself with fabulously talented people makes it easier to get to the point of no longer wanting to compete because the effort is just too exhausting. And it’s probably at that point that a person can do their best work.

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