I was reading The Swivet last Friday and saw this:
It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you’re in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you’re dealing with someone who can’t.
(By the way, here’s a simple way to find out if you’re a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you’re not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)
It was right after a trip to the mailbox where I received my latest fiction story rejection. Per usual, I got a personal note. They liked the premise but didn’t think there was enough conflict or at least not a “big problem for the main character to deal with/solve”. Apparently, the moral ambiguity involved in selling terminally ill individuals as though they were shoes doesn’t count as conflict which is, of course, not the point. If I have to explain the conflict, I failed. It’s that simple.
And by the way, I don’t disagree with the quote at all. It’s something I struggled with as a teacher and more recently in writing groups. Which is why I agree with the other quote by writer/director Josh Olson on the importance of being honest rather than breaking your brain to find something positive or encouraging or worst of all – nice – to say.
I think a lot about the idea of focus. What do I write best? I should be putting my energy there. Right?
7 thoughts on “Those Who Can’t”
I’m not sure you were asking, but I’m answering anyway. Your dialogue is outstanding. Your years of people watching have paid off in an ability to create a verbal-visual picture of the way people interact. At least, that’s my POV…
As a person who is new to writing, who never thought of myself as a writer, I have no idea what makes a writer good, other than an inability to put down their book. As a reader though, I do know when something is badly written. So I guess I agree with your statement.
As for focus, and what you write best? I think you write best what comes easily. I am struggling with the idea of trying to write fiction, now that I have written memoir. Will taking a class make me a fiction writer? Or do I have to be one already? I never wrote memoir before, but that worked out OK. So who knows. Maybe treading uncharted waters helps you to find your focus. At least it will help you define your strengths.
I think writing beyond our comfort zones makes us better writers if the ability is there to begin with.
I don’t agree with that quote. Writing and reading are full of nuances that can sneak up on you and snap decisions like that should not be made. Nick Hornby told me that the test of a writer is that if you can put a piece down and not pick it up for a week, you’re not a writer.
It is a tad more complicated, and I do agree that a writer is someone who simply has to write. The urge doesn’t have anything to do with the ability.
My wife posted the article en totem on her blog; it was fantastic, I thought.
Harsh, but good. I agree.