Here is an argument for why e-books should not be cheap. Is this argument too simplistic, too reaching? Is publishing just refusing to innovate and is mired in its old, inefficient ways of working? Read: The true price of publishing on guardian.co.uk.
I remember when writing used to be something I did solely for fun, when I would write just to play around with words. I created collage poems out of words and pictures cut from magazines. I tried to make up my own acrostics and crosswords. I wrote stories as a form of play — playing with an idea, a structure, something that someone else had written.
I think one reason I don’t write as much as I used to or would like to is because somewhere along the way, I lost that sense of having fun with it. Is it because I’ve grown up? Is it because I think I shouldn’t do anything anymore unless it’s productive or results in a paycheck, because that’s we are taught to think that adults do. Adults don’t play; we work.
Or is it because I’ve been told over and over again that to be a writer, one must be tortured, obsessed, possessed? Writing is something you do because you have to, not because you want to. Above all, it is not fun.
Probably it’s a combination of all of the above. One thing I do know — I miss writing just for fun. I want that back in my life.
After reading this – Elizabeth Gilbert Versus Philip Roth: Is Writing Torture? in The New Yorker – I have to declare that I completely respect Elizabeth Gilbert’s point of view. She has not lost her sense of fun or play. She can’t believe she actually gets to write as a job.
Doesn’t that seem preferable to the old “tortured artist” routine?
Also worth reading: Elizabeth Gilbert’s thoughts on writing.
From the New York Times: Relax! You’ll Be More Productive. We work best in 90-minute intervals, just three per day, with rest breaks in between. By “work,” I mean creative or highly focused work. For example, alternating mental work with physical breaks might be a good strategy.
The author gives a potent example. He wrote his first books the “old-fashioned way,” by sitting at the computer for 10 hours at a time; each book took a year to write. Then, he tried writing a book by working just 4-1/2 hours per day, in 90-minute intervals; it only took him 6 months to write the book. The point is that working less and producing high-quality work trumps working more and producing crap.
There was a terrific profile of short-story writer George Saunders in The New York Times Magazine this past Sunday, which I recommend to anyone who is interested in writers or writing. Saunders offers many insightful observations of the writing process, such as this one:
I recently reviewed George Saunders’ new book of short stories, Tenth of December, on my book review blog. I also highly recommend that collection, or if you want to sample some Saunders, the title story can be read for free online.
- Worth Reading: Tenth of December by George Saunders (readmorebooks.wordpress.com)
Writers are often told that they should “write what they know,” but perhaps that leads to boring, safe writing. A better piece of advice might be to write what you don’t know you know. By delving into your unconscious knowledge of yourself and the world, your writing may not only be more interesting, but also more therapeutic. Via: Should You Write What You Know? | The Creativity Post.
Here’s an interesting first-person account in The Chronicle of Higher Education from a writer who makes his living writing papers for college and university students. Not just undergraduate essays but graduate school theses and semester-long projects; he’s even completed online courses for students and participated in class discussions.
I live well on the desperation, misery, and incompetence that your educational system has created. Granted, as a writer, I could earn more; certainly there are ways to earn less. But I never struggle to find work.
This essay really brings home how much of a game it all is. Stack up the extracurriculars and pump up the SATs in high school to get into a good college. Fake your way through the coursework to win the appropriate degree. Get a job in which that degree will have absolutely no bearing but for which it is required. Work until you die.
The writer almost makes a case for becoming a freelance cheater instead. Except it sounds like so much work.
Letters of Note published this great letter from Charles Bukowski to the founder of New York Quarterly, William Packard. I love everything about this letter, including the misspellings and the doodles. Bukowski offers these words on writing:
When everything works best it’s not because you chose writing but because writing chose you. It’s when you’re mad with it, it’s when it’s stuffed in your ears, your nostrils, under your fingernails. It’s when there’s no hope but that.
Last night, I was thinking about this letter and about Bukowski, freezing in a tarpaper shack but still writing with a pencil stub in the margins of newspapers he found on the floor. I wondered if I had ever had such passion for writing. I remember writing a lot when I was younger, writing even when there were other, more interesting things to do, but I was never even close to a situation as rough as that.
But as we get older and more settled, as we take on a family or a job or a home (or, most likely, all three), the passions and obsessions that used to drive us get left behind, it seems. They leak out of us like air out of an old balloon. Then we wake up one day all flat and limp, and wonder what happened.
It’s likely that never happened to Bukowski, though. The writing had infected him too deeply. I both envy him and I’m glad I’m not like him.
[via Don't try.]
DRAFT is a series on the Opinionator blog of the New York Times about the craft of writing. There is always something interesting to read here. The most recent two posts describe how to create suspense and how to write by being still.
The writer’s job is to entertain, but there is more. Writers can educate, enlighten, even corrupt. This is why books are often seen as dangerous.
Writers are observers. They want to figure out what makes us human. Why do we behave the way we do toward one another? What is our purpose here? Is there any meaning to all this? Are we in control of our destiny or at the mercy of fate, the environment, heredity or dumb luck?
Writers are always looking. They are constantly:
- looking back — to understand who we are by understanding where we came from
- looking around — at contemporary society, culture, institutions, values and beliefs
- looking inward — revealing interior thoughts and psychology, trying to figure out what makes us tick
- looking beyond — turning our fears into monsters; realizing our fantasies by making the impossible possible; traveling to the furthest reaches of space, other dimensions and parallel worlds
- looking forward — extrapolating on the problems of today and following them through to their ultimate ends
I once heard a writer say in an interview that he always goes to a coffeeshop to write. This is because at home there are too many distractions. There are chores to be done, books to be read, snacks to be eaten and so on. But at the coffeeshop, while there are distractions, they aren’t intended for him. If he isn’t there to write, he has no reason to be there. So he might as well write. It sounds like a good trick, one I should try. All writers seem to have the problem of how to force themselves to sit down and just write.