Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Feel Bad for Aspiring Writers

It’s near impossible.

Last week, an author and creative writing teacher, Kyle Minor, blogged about reading his students’ writing. The post was titled: Five Sure Indications That What I’m Being Asked to Read Will Be Dismal Duty.

Here are a few of Minor's indications that the writing will stink: The author is a “published author” or wants to be a “published author” and what she’ll be reading is a “fictional novel.” And rather than being offered a very short story or a miniature narrative, she is being offered a flash.” Or the student says, “I’ve always known I was a writer.”

Minor's piece is a bit snarky, probably true, but still snarky.

It seems fiction writing isn’t like other activities that equate hard work with success. It’s not like being a long distance runner, where the more miles you run, the better you’ll be at running.

No, to be a good writer (admired, esteemed, and such) you can’t just be hardworking. You need to have something special. It seems good writers don’t crawl on their hands and knees, begging people to read their manuscript. They don’t divulge their feelings about being a writer. And they never send annoying query letters. It seems writers are supposed to be plucked from society, like a model discovered in a mall.

I compare this image of writers to Pride and Prejudice, when Elizabeth is confronted by Mr. Darcy’s ideas on what makes an accomplished woman: “A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”

Impossible! I understand Minor is simply offering some advice on how to be taken more seriously but writers are so often given conflicting advice. On one hand, they are told to never stop trying, just keep at it. Many authors were rejected at first. On the other hand, there’s a sense that great writers are much too serious and engulfed in their work to send silly emails to possible mentors or editors. What is a writer to do? Probably just write.


  1. I think you're mistaken about the authorship of that blog entry. It has a big picture of Anne Lamott at the top, but the byline above the headline (admittedly in a confusing place) is Kyle Minor's. I think Lamott's image is being used merely to assign blame, as she is mentioned by name (in the third person) as one of the people responsible for urging people to write.

    That said, I like what you say.

  2. Thanks for pointing that out, Mark. It's been corrected.