I once told a room full of writers that what they did was no big deal. I know several three year olds that can write, I continued, and you don’t hear them bragging about it. Thats a reality. Almost everyone can write. The trick is to write something that people wish to read. Or if you suffer from delusions of grandeur write something that will be considered a classic. That I’m sure would be enough for any writer, but to me the apex is to change the way a society sees itself with what you write.
I once had far more time on my hands than anyone ought to have, and spent much of it perusing volume after unmitigatedly pretentious volume of the great works of western civilization. I will grant you that many of them contained knowledge that no intellectual should be without. They covered Newton, and Kant, Shakespeare, and Twain. From Socrates to Descartes, and so on ad damn near infinitum. I are not an intellectual, and while I know some things about a lot of things, many of these volumes went the way of 9th grade french.
My point. I’m sure I have one. Give me a sec. If you’re a young reader this is where I normally post the warning against marijuana use. Oh yes. Writing. The reason I mention the great works is that so many are missing. I’m sorry, but a few scholarly types at Mercer University shouldn’t get to decide what is great, and what is not. You might be great, but I’m betting the good folks at Mercer have never heard of you. They say Hemingway is great, and while I agree Hemingway wrote great things; I must also point out that he wrote some real crap.
I’m not a great writer. I have read some though. I have a favorites list 12 miles long and expanding on a nearly daily basis. What I think All my favorites have in common is they have the ability to reach inside themselves, and put down on paper that which is only known by their soul. I can give oodles of examples, but the only one I wish to point out at this time is Harlan Ellison.
Ellison was once read on virtually every college campus in America. Now he’s probably known more for having his name at the end of the Star Trek credits. Harlan is not a classic writer. His sentence structure is worse than mine, (god forbid), and his casual acquaintance with the theory of punctuation can be maddening as hell. What he does do well though is feel. He has more anger in his little finger than most people have in their extended family, and it rolls across the paper in great crashing waves of chaotic vitriol. Reading his stories is like stepping into quicksand, and the life or death struggle to climb back out again. I have caught myself literally not breathing as I read, and come to the end with my lungs gasping for air. I have sat and considered what I read for longer than it took to read, and still found myself troubled to the very core of my cynical, misanthropic being. That is a great work.
My point is don’t over-think everything. Sometimes if you just open up the closet full of skeletons that is the soul you will find a treasure trove of beauty, rage, love, hate, angst, and all the other wonderful things that make up a great story.
But what the hell do i know. Keep writing. Luck is probably a factor, too.
another post that was lost in a purge…its funny where you find these things laying around the net