More reading about writing

Tonight I dropped Andy off at the airport because he is spending the next week in Germany on business. In truth, I’m lucky: thanks to his summer intern Raunaq, he had to cut what was originally a two-week business trip in half so that he could be here for Raunaq’s final presentation and evaluation. Thank you, Raunaq! (Who doesn’t read this blog, I’m sure…)

Anyway, I thought this would be easier than last year’s one-week trip to Germany, because now we have Riley, and the BlackBerry (free international calls!), and Netflix. And I guess is is easier. But it’s still not easy. However stupid that is.

(Yes, I know he’s coming back, and yes, I know it’s only a week. Facts and feelings are not always aligned, you know?)

To stave off the loneliness, I watched a couple episodes of Hannah Montana, the last half of 10 Things I Hate About You, and all of Monster-In-Law. (Mmm, Michael Vartan…)

Then I went back to the thing that got me through my whole only-child-hood, the thing that made me never feel lonely growing up: reading.

So continuing my earlier post about letters from established writers to us young hopefuls (as published in Atlantic Monthly), here are a few excerpts from “To a Young Writer” by Wallace Stegner (the guy who founded the creative writing program at Stanford University):

For one thing, you never took writing to mean self-expression, which means self-indulgence. You understood from the beginning that writing is done with words and sentences, and you spent hundreds of hours educating your ear, writing and rewriting and rewriting until you began to handle words in combination as naturally as one changes tones with the tongue and lips in whistling. I speak respectfully of this part of your education because every year I see students who will not submit to it—who have only themselves to say and who are bent upon saying it without concessions to the English language. In acknowledging that the English language is a difficult instrument, and that a person who sets out to use it expertly has no alternative but to learn it, you did something else: you forced yourself away from that obsession with self that is the strength of a very few writers and the weakness of so many. You have labored to put yourself in charge of your material; you have not fallen for the romantic fallacy that it is virtue to be driven by it. By submitting to language you submitted to other disciplines, you learned distance and detachment, you learned how to avoid muddying a story with yourself.

How often the writing of young writers is a way of asserting a personality that isn’t yet there, that is only being ravenously hunted for.

… how love lasts, but changes, how life is full of heats and frustrations, causes and triumphs, and death is cool and quiet. It does not sound like much, summarized, and yet it embodies everything you believe about yourself and about human life and at least some aspects of the people you have most loved. In your novel, anguish and resignation are almost in balance. Your people live on the page and in the memory because they have been loved and therefore have been richly imagined.