on writing

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


29 Responses to on writing

  1. Cliff Burns says:

    My problem is that I DO “over-think everything” and I agree, it is a problem. I combine Harlan Ellison’s irascibility with a perfectionism that makes me regard hacks and wannabes with vitriolic contempt. And then I get in trouble for being an elitist arsehole with pretensions of Godhood…when all I want to be is a good writer. Sigh.

    I like your site and I like your sharp-toothed attitude.
    Keep posting and keep kicking against the pricks.

  2. max says:

    Of all the writers to use as an example, it had to be Ellison?

    Oh the pain.

  3. Cliff: what they think is unimportant. As long as you can do what you like without it causing a change in the product you are putting out….congrats on the movie, btw

  4. Max, I gotta say, that guy can reach in like almost no one else can. I would rather write the grapes of wrath, than shatterday, but shatterday’ll make you whimper.

    you don’t like ellison?

  5. max says:

    He is a mean little man.

  6. you aren’t kiddin…but one hell of a writer. i don’t mind the mean because I’m not looking for a date.

  7. max says:

    Some people are such horrible human beings, all I see when I look at their art is ugly. He is one of those people. I will not read him.

  8. I’d argue with you, but thats how I see Steve Job, and George Lucas.

  9. max says:

    Yeah, well, with me it is personal. He tried to injure me one time. No reason. Just being the regular rat bastard he is striking out at anyone and anything he felt like. He happened to be striking out at a struggling college student/writer and while on the long road of nastiness trailing that guy that would not be even a blip on the radar to him, it was a big blip to me and I have not forgotten and I hate the guy.

  10. shoot max….didn’t know it was personal. wouldn’t of handled it so lightly. By the looks of things you came through swimmingly.

  11. max says:

    Oh hey light is good serious is no fun.

  12. well as of this moment saturday morning has been somewhat devoid of fun….except telling the check out girl at the grocery store that I wanted by items bagged alphabetically

  13. max says:

    Oh you do not play enough Tetriz. Tetriz just makes Saturday mornings.

  14. i played the original…a lot..i was really good at it…i can handle four shapes….not real complicated

  15. max says:

    There you go. All you need is four shapes and a little obsessive compulsive streak and your weekends are all fixed up.

  16. i have three very independent teenagers, a dog with seperation anxiety, and a rabbit with a predeliction for ankle sex. My weekends are pretty full now

  17. max says:

    How many phone lines and bathrooms does it take to raise three teenagers these days? Oh wow and teenagers drive. I bet the insurance guys just lick their lips when you walk in the door.

  18. ieach has a cellphone…only one old enough to drive, and except when they are at their mothers just one bathroom.

  19. max says:

    Wow, way to live dangerously with three teenagers and one bathroom. If those are girls, you are in so much trouble.

  20. only the youngest…Trouble seems to be my niche.

  21. max says:

    Okay, you have to get another bathroom. A burgeoning young woman cannot share a bathroom with three jocks.

  22. this is probably true, but then I lose the fun of watching her run them out of the bathroom

  23. max says:

    Sure it is funny now but wait till the real hormones kick in and you and the boys find yourselves peeing behind the house with the dog.

  24. max says:

    [Wait, back up, I am suddenly realizing where that could go. Uh oh.]

  25. I’d respond to this, but I’m more curious as to where your uh oh ould take this

  26. max says:

    I am not telling.

  27. oh c’mon, I haven’t had my daily dosages of scatalogical, demented, or disgusting yet today

  28. max says:

    I do not do scatalogical. This is not the Army you know.

  29. I thought not when I wasn’t screamed at before the sun came up, but I’m pretty thick

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