Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Some Thoughts on Writing

I was typing up an e-mail to a former classmate from my grad program and ended up articulating several ideas on writing, and the workshopping of writing, that I hadn't really put into words before. Plus, I was fairly impressed by the general decrease in Art-Institute-related bitterness. And since I'm unlikely to either teach a class and ingrain students with my doubtless piercing insights (ha), or to randomly soliloquize to my writing or non-writing friends and thereby alienate them forever, I thought I'd post them here. Enjoy!

On Workshops, and the tendency to emphasize form and literariness over content: I think it's because there's a hesitancy or unwillingness to tackle content because it may be seen as a personal attack on the writer's interests, a critique of the individual's legitimacy as opposed to the quality of their writing....I think that ideally there should be no discernible separation between content, message, and form. That is, a finished piece shouldn't distract the reader with the way it is told, but be a seamless whole in which the writing style is integral to and enhances the story and message. This is something that often seems hard to articulate in a workshop setting--it's easy for discussions to go off on tangents.

On Attracting the Interest of an Audience: My advice is to worry as little as possible about what people gravitate towards. There's no accounting for taste! :) This is sad but true. People will like what they like, and it doesn't necessarily mean a writer is doing something right or wrong, unfortunately. It should, I agree, be different in a writing class--there should be a higher standard of objectivity--but you can't count on that....this is just the way people are, and graduate programs are...

On Bringing Diverse Readers Willingly Into Your World: ...if the writer and reader are both sincere and open, [different perspectives/experiences] shouldn't matter--I read an incredible variety of work by/about people whose lives are entirely unlike mine. I agree with you--that's one of the fascinating parts of reading. You can enter into someone else's world. And, as a writer, you can bring others into yours. I think it can be done, especially if (as I mentioned before) the writing and the content and the message all support and enhance each other, as well as your intent. But you can only offer your reader the experience--it's a two-way street. You can't guarantee what they will bring to the reading of your work, nor can you control how they perceive it or interact with it.