Other people’s words on … writing
He said, ‘What is your job as a writer of fiction?’ And she said that her job as a writer of fiction was to report on the human condition, to tell us who we are and what we think and what we do.
from ‘My name is Lucy Barton‘
by Elizabeth Strout
When I first began this blog, I was adamant that, though I am a published writer, my blog would not be about writing. A writer can blog about things other than writing, right? A writer isn’t just a writer: a writer is a person; a writer has a life. That’s what I wanted to blog about.
Besides, it seemed to me that blogging about writing would be, in my case, an inexcusably audacious act. My thinking went like this: I have published only two books. I haven’t published anything since 2010. My books have gone out of print. What can I tell anyone about writing? Who would want to read what I had the temerity to say?
I don’t much like the word ‘writer’. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t published much and don’t make a living from my writing, but I feel pretentious and arrogant when I call myself one. I think of myself instead as someone who has written two books, and would like to write another one, but is struggling to do so.
That’s another word I don’t like: ‘struggle’. When I first began writing stories and fiction, the writing was an act of joy. It was a process of humble discovery. Each word that I wrote, each sentence, each chapter, was a journey. I was learning to do something new. I was learning to do something I loved. I was learning.
So when I first read the words I’ve quoted above from Elizabeth Strout, I thought: Yes! Writing fiction, for me, has always been about opening myself up to sorrow, and to joy, and to humility, and to discovery. It’s about expressing those things, however afraid I am to do so. It’s about making sense of my life. It’s about trying to make something beautiful. It’s about having the temerity — the audacity, the arrogance — to share my words with other people: people who, like me, love reading.
Most of all, writing fiction, like blogging, is about sharing.
And so that’s the reason I’m posting these words about writing today. Call it pretension; call it temerity. Call it audacity; call it arrogance. Call it learning; call it sorrow; call it joy.
Elizabeth Strout again (from the same book):
You will have only one story … You’ll write your one story many ways. Don’t ever worry about story. You have only one.
Maybe this is the only story I have to share, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth sharing.