Stuff worth reading

“Why Writers are the Worst Procrastinators” by Megan McArdle

Think about how a typical English class works: You read a “great work” by a famous author, discussing what the messages are, and how the author uses language, structure, and imagery to convey them. You memorize particularly pithy quotes to be regurgitated on the exam, and perhaps later on second dates. Students are rarely encouraged to peek at early drafts of those works. All they see is the final product, lovingly polished by both writer and editor to a very high shine. When the teacher asks “What is the author saying here?” no one ever suggests that the answer might be “He didn’t quite know” or “That sentence was part of a key scene in an earlier draft, and he forgot to take it out in revision.”

“Kesha Opens Up About Rehab, Eating Disorders And Sexism”

“I was wild, crazy and free. I talked about sex, about drinking. When men do that, it’s rock and roll, but when I did it, people assumed I was a train wreck.”

“I’m not fully fixed – I am a person in progress, but I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

“Write Till You Drop” by Annie Dillard

You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.

The writer knows her field – what has been done, what could be done, the limits – the way a tennis player knows the court. And like that expert, she, too, plays the edges. That is where the exhilaration is.

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

6 responses to “Stuff worth reading”

  1. T. S. Bazelli Avatar

    The first link got me thinking about how little I intentionally put into the writing. I always thought that writers thought about each little metaphorical detail, but now I know that so much of it is the reader’s interpretation. High school me would be shocked!

    1. Kristan Avatar

      YES! I used to think that too. I mean, in school I suspected that writers probably weren’t pouring that much thought into every single metaphor and word choice… but it wasn’t until I was fully entrenched on this side of the page that I realized how much of it is subconscious, or layered in later.

  2. Shari Avatar

    Oh, I love that third link!

    1. Kristan Avatar

      So glad you enjoyed it! It really spoke to me too. (As evidenced by my inability to pick just one quote, haha.)

  3. Anthony Lee Collins Avatar

    I had a very long response to the first article, but then my browser ate it (no, really!), so here’s a shorter one.

    I really agree that professors and students and fans often read all sorts of meaning into works of art (all types of art) that the artists never intended, and that at least some artists, when presented with these theories, are perfectly happy to take all the credit.

    But I disagree that writers procrastinate more than everybody else. For example, there is (and I have decades of experience backing up this opinion) just as much procrastination in the corporate world.

    The difference are: 1) procrastination is always more obvious when it’s being carried out in a robe and slippers, with a cat on the lap, as opposed to in a corporate cubicle (even a corporate cubicle equipped with all the distractions of a computer, a tablet, a cell phone, and a Nerf basketball hoop) , and 2) writers like to romanticize and mythologize writers and writing, even to writers’ weaknesses (the title of that article might be the “worst” procrastinators but the point is really that writers are the “best,” not the “worst”). Corporate folks mostly don’t do that, except very quietly among themselves.

    Now, in the longer version of this comment, I also got into some other topics, including, but not limited to…

    1. Kristan Avatar

      Your points #1 and #2 are both well-taken! In fact, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the romantic myth of the writer…