Friday, October 20, 2006

Should we or shouldn't we?

The ironic, charming, and very noir Wallace Stroby is the guest of the Virtual Cocktail Party over at Good Girls Kill For Money, today.

Among other gems, we find this:

TASHA: What’s the most agonizing part of writing a book?

WALLACE: For me, the beginning, the middle and the end. Also, the ramp-up to the beginning, and the letdown when it’s finished. Outside of that, it’s all great.

Okay, well, whew, limp with relief. It's NOT just me.

This ties in with a question I've been pondering this week:

Should we ever - EVER - tell someone that they should be a writer? I mean, that is, people who are not already unswervingly, suicidally committed to it?

Once in a while I'll meet someone who is such a good storyteller, so mindblowingly creative, that I find the words coming out of my mouth - "You really should be writing." Because, of course, I want to read the stuff. And maybe because I'd like to see this person creatively fulfilled, something dreamy like that.

But lately I've been stopping and wondering - What the hell am I thinking, telling ANYONE to be a writer? You either are, or you aren't, right? If you're not, why would I wish it on you, especially if I actually like you? This is not something to do, this is something you do if you virtually cannot do anything else.

It's like wishing drug addiction on a person, really. So isn't it better NOT to encourage it? And just stick with practical advice for the people who are certifiably (and I do mean certifiably) writers already, God help them?

I wonder.


elainesbrain said...

I think that ultimately it is harmless to encourage a person to be a writer... because as you say, "You either are or you aren't."

It's the degree to which you are compelled to it and the discipline you have therein that makes the difference, I think.

Which is why a million people are always "working on their screenplay" or "working on their novel" but not really getting anywhere.

I think I've personally been happier being honest with myself about what I am doing. When I am writing a dozen emails per day back and forth with a certain charming someone, that makes me a correspondent. Or a letter writer. Which is an art in itself. Until I sit down and go through my own process of hacking and whacking through the rest of it to write that novel, that poem and that children's book, I'm more of a correspondent, a bon vivant, an ebay shopper, a chef, a gardener, a crossword puzzler.

But a writer, not so much.


Allison Brennan said...

I agree with Elaine. You either write--or your don't. It takes a certain mindset to write.

When I sold, I waited nearly a year before I told anyone outside of other writers and my closest friends (who knew I was trying to sell.) Mostly because it felt weird and unreal, I didn't have a contract in hand for a long time (and I thought it was all a mistake for awhile, you know, that they wanted to buy my book!) and I was really scrambling to find a way to quit my day job THEN announce it (petty, I know ;)

Anyway, a guy I really admire, one of the smartest guys I know (he's a policy nerd and attorney, but also a good guy) came up to me totally excited for me. He said it was 99% happy and 1% jealous. "Everyone says they want to write a book, but you actually did it." He's always wanted to write a book, but never had the time (i.e. the deep down desire) and he acknowledged that because I wrote a book, worked full-time, and have five kids and still wrote at night, that maybe he didn't want to do it badly enough.

Even now, on the rare occasion I see him, he is one of my biggest fans :)

billie said...

I think telling them is fine - after all, they'll either be willing to put in the time at the desk, or not. :)


Alexandra Sokoloff said...

I guess it really boils down to - there's never any harm in encouraging someone to write. It's a window to the soul; we should all do it, in whatever form.

And why not encourage someone to be a writer (mildly...)? Because for a moment the ego gets stroked, but of course, they're going to do it or not - that's up to them.

I guess it's just that circumstance in which you know someone is passing years of their life thinking that the writing IS going to happen, is going to be their salvation... that's where everything gets uneasy, for me...

The thing is, writing doesn't HAPPEN.

It is bludgeoned into being by sheer will.