Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Writing About Writing

I am not sure, frankly, what to do with this blog. I have a place to write about writing over here already, and if I was to be honest about it, I find that I have less to say about writing the longer I'm at it. Not that I think I know less about writing as time goes on, but I think there actually becomes less to say about it as one progresses as a fictionaut. One internalizes and personalizes and eventually one is just writing the way one writes. You only have questions and answers that pertain to your own current work. Or I do, anyway.

I find myself talking about other people's books, making pronouncements and judgments, and then realizing half an hour later that none of us really knows what we're talking about in regard to that other person's book. We really only talk about our own writing in respect to that other person's book. How is this other person's book unlike my work? How do I want my work to be more like theirs, or how does their work fall short of the ideal I have for my own work? How is any of this talk interesting to anyone with any self-awareness? How is any of this talk remotely useful?

How many blogs are there about writing? I can't count that high, I'm sure. All these people who want to be published writers, scribbling away about this and that and all saying, approximately, the same things over and over to each other. It's a closed system of babble and it gives me a headache. I don't actually read the blogs of any writers these days because I don't find anything at all interesting being said. There is a great deal to be said about literature still, but writers aren't really the ones saying it. Jonathan Franzen wrote recently (in the New Yorker, I believe) a long essay about going to a remote island and reading Robinson Crusoe and thinking about the novel. Or, rather, the Novel. And it was a lot of insufferable tripe about Jonathan Franzen. Who cares what he has to say about the novel? Who cares what any writer has to say about the novel? They can only give you a narrow, blinkered idea of what fiction can be because all writers are partially blinded by their own work. We lack peripheral vision, we do.

What I read these days, in terms of blogs (and that isn't much or often), are readers writing about the experience of reading fiction. Writers could learn a lot from those folks, I think. The smartest and most vibrant discussions of literature going on now are happening among readers, not writers. Francine Prose has a good book for writers called Reading Like A Writer, but what I want to do now is read like a reader. We'll see how that goes.


  1. I think that's why I have lost a lot of interest in helluo librorum (my writing blog). First, I'm too busy writing to be writing about writing, and then I really haven't had anything fresh to add to the mix lately.

    I'm glad I'm not the only one going through this ...

  2. Makes sense to me. On my blog, which is neglected in its own right, I try to focus on essays about my family and life in general, and purposefully stay away from writing about writing.

  3. Fondly do I recall a time when I went to the library or to a bookstore and brought home a stack of books and enjoyed reading them quietly in private and never once *talked* about writing and books and publishing other than to maybe tell a friend that Hey, I liked this book, and maybe I'd write a story myself. There it ended. Writers existed in some nebulous realm and you read about them on the back cover and looked at their badly-taken photo and then you were done with that. They didn't yak at you endlessly about their Process or their Muse or their Struggle for Validation.

    Those days, of course, were Before the Interwebz. And now, I have mine own writing-centered blog, mostly because it is mandated by publishers these days that authors be social. When I was a child, my parents used to chastise me for spending too much time alone in my room reading. They made me come in to the livingroom to socialize. I didn't like it then, either.

    -Alex MacKenzie

  4. Funny how the Universal Mind relays thoughts throughout those that are willing to accept them.

    I too, have been struggling for months with my blog, like Alex said, because the publishers demand socialization.

    I think I may only post once a week like Anne Allen does. I might find I have more to say with a concentrated topic. More like an essay instead of mish-mash.

  5. Well said and well felt, sir. Indeed.

  6. I enjoy your excerpts. I hope you continue to post them.

    For myself, although I've been making a conscious effort to read more fiction, the way I used to, I've actually wanted for some time now to blog more about reading/writing/storytelling. The philosophy of it ... why do we tell stories? Why do some stories feel "right" and how is it different from "real" life? Etc. I have many ideas for my blog, but I haven't had time.

    However, I think there's no harm in taking a break, if you're feeling burned out. Just keep in mind you might feel renewed inspiration later.

  7. I use my blog to rant about things and think out loud about things that feel important at the moment and then seem to fade away just as quickly. It's a bit maddening, actually, and I've been wondering if I should really shift my focus to something else. What, I don't know. I'm honestly just getting bored of blogging altogether. There doesn't seem to be anything else to say for the most part. This is depressing.