Qualities of a Writer

Good books are hard to find. I tend to split my reading between the “classics” and contemporary writing. And a post on Josh Porter’s Bokardo highlighted an author I consider a classic, Douglas Adams. A striking aspect of Adams’ piece on “How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet” is the applicability almost 10 years after the fact:

I expect that history will show ‘normal’ mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this. ‘Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn’t do anything? Didn’t everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?’

‘Yes, child, that’s why they all went mad. Before the Restoration.’

‘What was the Restoration again, please, miss?’

‘The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back.’

The good writers last, and maybe without even planning to, stay relevant years after a publication date. But these good writers didn’t just spring up overnight.

Writers On Writing

T.S. Eliot believed “there is no method except to be very intelligent.”(link) But Ray Bradbury took the position that “any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.” (link)

William Faulkner might capture what it takes to be a good writer better than anyone else:

At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, training himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance—that is to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is to be—curiosity—to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does, and if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference, whether you’ve got it or not. (link)

Writing Today

I believe Faulkner’s quote is especially applicable to those who write blogs. Isn’t it curiosity about what’s happening in our world that drives us to self-publish? Isn’t it our wonder at how amazing our world has become that drives us to write, even if only to an audience of one? And isn’t it our patience that keeps us posting even when the comments are few and far between?

Writing is tricky, and sometimes I wonder why I do it. Famous publisher Bennett Cerf offered up his reasons to avoid writing:

Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman’s name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer—and if so, why? (link)

What drives you to pick up the pen or pound at the keyboard? For me, it’s about getting the words out. Once in awhile, I get lucky, and the words make sense, and I feel really good about what I’ve done—until the next time I sit down at the computer and stare at a blank screen. Sometimes the hardest thing you’ll ever do is fill up the big, empty space with words. But when it happens, and things click, there is no greater feeling in the world. So here’s to the “cult of amateur” who keeps finding the words to share their worlds. Thank you for filling the blank screen time and again.



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June 2007
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