(Note: This opinion/rant is from an incomplete “reading”. I’m not done. You can say more accurately that I’m reviewing the first 2 chapters for now.)
I’ve come to notice that I do better in my writing when I focus my thoughts on writing. Right now I do this by listening to writing podcasts (as you know, I’m a big fan of Mur Lafferty’s ‘I should be writing’ and Writing Excuses. If you aren’t listening to them yet, go! Go listen! This post will be here when you get back.). I’ve looked around at a few more but none really do anything for me and some are downright atrocious and very monotone.
It goes to show, writers do not always make the best speakers.
I have a substantial commute (almost 2 hours daily) to listen to these podcasts, but Writing Excuses is once a week and 15 minutes long while ISBW is anywhere from 20-30 minutes to an hour and also just over once a week.
That’s a lot of dead time I fill with just music. I’ve come to notice that while I enjoy music, on those days where I don’t listen to those podcasts (or really read anything interesting that’s related to writing) I tend not to write at all.
This is not good.
So I caved and decided to give Audible.com a try
For the few who don’t know, Audible.com is an audio book service. You sign up and either just buy the books you want or get a relatively cheap subscription which basically lets you get a free book monthly. Since books can be anywhere from 10 bucks to 30-40 bucks, this can save you some money. They also have a 30 day free trial which means you get a free book of your choice. You choose and download and that’s it. Easy.
(Note: Dad, if you read this, go check it out.)
So I figured, if I can’t have writing podcasts on a daily basis, I’ll see if I can download books that are writing related (Stephen King’s On Writing is available and I might pick it up next).
The one quibble I have is the iPhone interface is clunky to navigate and browse for new books. It’s a minor thing. I also can’t download them at work, which sucks if I’m stuck.
So I was pleasantly surprised to see “The Successful Novelist” by David Morrell come up in my search. I wasn’t previously aware of the book, but I know David Morrell.
David Morrell is the author of “First Blood” which gave birth to the Rambo franchise. Now, make fun of the movies all you want, “First Blood” was well written. He’s also written another book I’ve quite enjoyed called “Fraternity of the Stone”. It’s your basic action/thriller type of stuff.
So I chose that as my free book and after fiddling about and downloading, I started to listen yesterday and so far I have to say, I’m thoroughly disappointed.
The narration wasn’t my cup of tea, so I might keep an eye out if anything I’m interested in lists Patrick Lawlor. He’s not terrible, but the folksy reading voice isn’t doing it for me.
The first chapter is Mr Morrell’s background, this was mildly interesting but frankly, it didn’t grab me. It’s your basic disenfranchised boy makes good by working hard and having inspiration. I congratulate him on his success, but I failed to be interested. This isn’t because it’s badly written, it’s mostly me and my mood. I was eager to get to the writing discussions. Mr Morrell has experience has an english professor and has given many seminars on writing and taught workshops, so I was eager.
The second chapter, ah, here’s where we’re going to start right? He wants to discuss motivations. The second chapter is called “Lesson One: Why do you want to be a writer” and I groaned.
In my opinion it’s complete and utter crap. He begins with a story example in one of his many classes where he asks this question of his students: “Why do you want to be a writer?”
Of course, the right answer is “because you need to be” that’s fine. Debatable, true in many cases, but it’s fine.
In the next chapter he then goes on about the WHY do you need to be a writer and borderline pontificate on why you SHOULD need to be a writer. According to Mr Morrell it’s all about trauma. That’s the end all be all of writing according to this lesson, trauma. He was traumatized in his youth because his father died before he was born, in WWII and his writing is his way of coming to terms with this. Hemingway was a great writer because he was wounded in WWII and had PTSD. Writers need to write because they have secrets they need to tell about themselves even if they do not know it, therefore, to write, you should have trauma. He pulls out the old tired anecdote that Hemingway once told an interviewer that a wannabe writer should go and hang himself so he’d have something to write about. There’s also some talk about experiencing your unconscious and how you have no control but that it’s your “inner writer” and allowing yourself to daydream (both nice and dark daydreams).
Oh bullshit. Are you trying to tell me because someone’s parents didn’t die when they were kids or they haven’t been in a major accident or been diddled by a stranger as a toddler they can’t write?
Are you seriously telling me I can’t be a writer because I’m NOT the goddamn Batman?
If this is true, I’m very impressed because there’s a lot of friggin Batmans in the world…so why is crime still around? Oh yeah, they’re writing instead of putting on the tights.
He even goes so far to suggest that those of us who want to write but have no admitted traumas have them, we just don’t realize we have them.
Look folks, trauma is fine and dandy if you want to write. If you have PTSD and writing helps you work out your demons, that’s awesome.
Is it essential to write? Heck no. It’s not even the best reason to write in my opinion! What about the joys of storytelling? What about wanting to be heard? A writer could have a desire to say something, anything at all without having been traumatized first.
I love writing, I love telling stories and having people enjoy them. I want to move someone with what I write the way Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss moved me when I was a teen and I first read the Dragonlance novels.
I assure you fine readers that my parents are still very much alive and well (they are some of my readers) and that no one abused me as a child.
Although there was that one time I didn’t get that present I wanted for Christmas.
Damn…maybe I am a writer. Heh.
Anyway, I really enjoyed David Morrell’s novels, but I think he’s mostly full of it so far as to the motivations for people wanting to write. I have nothing else to listen to as I drive home tonight, so I’m going to listen to see if the more technical chapters of this opus are more stimulating and useful to me. I do not have high hopes.
I have a long rant about the fallacy of inspiration and the idea that writers *need* to write, but I will spare you the long version and give you the Cliff Notes version.
It’s a very adolescent, Lucy Maud Montgomery kind of attitude, if you ask me.
“Oh, I can’t IMAGINE a life without writing! It’s my life’s blood! I would DIE if I couldn’t write!”
No, really, what are you, twelve?
I love to write. I really do. But if I was told I could never write again? I would find a way to cope, I promise you.
I don’t know. I have no issues with anyone saying they need to write.
To me that translates as “I feel a need to write” (for whatever reason). I feel a need to write. If I don’t write, I feel a little off. If I couldn’t write, life goes on. Let’s face it, it did for over a decade and it’s only recently that I’m pushing myself.
Since I’ve started this site and decided to step up my writing and try, I’ve come to notice something on the days I don’t write, no, let me be more explicit: On the days I don’t WANT to write. On those days, there’s something wrong. If I sit and think about it, I can feel there’s something wrong. It’s not a big something. Just something.
If you could not write, I believe you when you say you’d find a way to cope. I bet you that way to cope would be something creative though right?
I’m beginning to think the creative urge is universal, it just varies in intensity from person to person. My wife insists she isn’t creative at all, yet all I have to do is look at her knitting, her baking and the various arts and crafts she’s always doing and I have my argument. I can imagine a creative urge strong enough to rise to the level of, how did you say it? “Lucy Maud Montgomery”?
Of course, that could be the symptom of mania and would be quite rare. I’ll safely scoff at most people having that attitude. If the need is that strong in someone, they won’t be going around telling people about it, they’ll be chained to their word processor to the exclusion of all else.
I am in agreement over the creative urge. I just find it highly annoying to have it portrayed as a driving force that’s entirely outside of a person’s control.
I am much happier when I’m being creative, no argument. It’s just taking that reasoning to its extreme that pisses me off, because invariably there seems to be an underlying judgement that people who don’t feel psychotically compelled to write/draw/whatever are somehow inferior. That these non-creative people are somehow to be pitied because they don’t understand the truly magical world of the artist.
It just makes my teeth itch.
In total agreement there.
It’s supremely disappointing when an experienced and seasoned writer buys into the whole “tortured/driven” writer meme. I’m hoping the discussion here, and my posts will eventually put a lie to that and show that while you need ambition, passion and some dedication, you don’t have to be psychotic to be successful.
You just need to work hard! Like basically everything else.
My teeth were irritated as well, but then I got a mental picture that set me giggling. Imagine if you will:
Batman writing the great american novel. In costume.
I swear now if I sell a manuscript I’m going to have to go and get a batman costume and take a picture hunched over the keyboard. I’ll caption it: “I’ve just been published. I’m the goddamn batman!”
That picture is making me guffaw 🙂