Friday, November 23, 2007

Jenny's Book on Writing, As Written by Someone Else

Part of FJR is excerpts from a book written by one of the characters. More specifically, we're looking at chapter one of his book on writing.

Writing books, whether written by real or fictional people, are interesting. The main idea of being a writer is that everyone has to find their own way. Yet, there are stacks and stacks of books written by writers to tell other people how to be writers. Seems contradictory, doesn't it? Of course, whatever helps you find your way, right?

Me, I'm fond of doing things the hard way and figuring it out on my own. This is why I've only ever read two books (that I remember) on writing: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. Even then, the second isn't specifically about writing, it just has a ton of metafictional commentary within it.

Then again, plenty of writers I admire give credit to writing books as part of what helped them. If I ever wanted to look up a writing book, I know exactly who to ask for a recommendation. I also love to hear writers talk about their process, so when you get right down to it, I kind of do find writing books helpful, just not necessarily when they're in book form.

Reading Jenny's "excerpt" also makes me wonder a bit about all the writers who write how-to books. Setting aside all question of making a quick buck, it's interesting to think of what motivates people like Stephen King to sit down and knock out page upon page of "this is how I do it." Why are these writers so strongly motivated to share their experience?

"Oh come on," you say, "wake up and smell the blog. You're doing the same thing."

Ah yes, you're a quick one, you are.

As writers, we tend to be a fairly isolated lot. This is why writers groups are so important, they at least get us out of the house and into daylight on occasion. The act of writing is so paradoxical: we sit by ourselves in order to make connections with others. It doesn't make any sense, does it?

It seems the point I'm working up to is this: Even if you don't read "writing books," it seems impossible to escape them. Writers are a cannibalistic bunch, we feed off of our peers in an assortment of ways and no matter how long we've been working away at our typewriters, we're always going to be someone's apprentice.

On a side note, what's the best advice about writing you've been given (whether in a book or not)?

2 comments:

Jenny said...

Sit down. Stay there. Write.

Best advice ever. Writing teaches you more than any writing book. Of course, I think I got the jist of that from a writing book...so maybe not?

Whittaker Luckless said...

Jenny once told me: "Do it right." I've taken it to heart.

PERSIST, FOOL CHILD! That's my other one.

And: Do only and exactly what you please, let everyone read it, listen to everyone's feedback, consider what they say, weigh it, ponder upon it, then do only and exactly what you please again.

I'm learning that one's important too.