Hey, guys! Sorry I’ve been away so long…I’ve been working pretty hard on Little Bird, and a new sci-fi story in first person present which, as my boyfriend requested, has both war and aliens in it. And brains in a box, but he didn’t request that. Anyway.
I’m back to the bloggy grindstone now, so don’t you fret. Or, you know, whatever you were doing.
Writing Devices: If It Ain’t Broke
I’ll be honest: my initial reaction was one of horror. Dear God, I thought–how much money are people willing to pay for special writing devices? I mean, this thing is basically just a word processing program in a fancy (and somewhat bulky, it looks like) case. While I like people to know I write, a t-shirt would be cheaper. And what message, really, is a device like this sending? That the only way to keep your holy and much-tortured genius ‘distraction free’ is to pay $400 for it?
And again, I’ll be honest. Every time I hear the phrase ‘distraction free’ in relation to writing, my blood still boils a little bit. Christ, guys. Are we all so undisciplined that we need special new toys to keep us from frittering the day away on Facebook or Twitter? Do we hate writing so much that all it takes is an article about ‘Ten Hollywood Actresses Who Looked Way Better in Their High School Yearbook Pictures’ to keep us away from it? I mean, I’ll admit it. I’ve spent possible writing time tweeting before. Or on the phone, or cooking dinner, or watching a movie. But I tend not to think of that as ‘OMG possible writing time spent engaged in unholy distraction’. I tend to think of it as time off. We all need time off.
Writing is, naturally, wonderfully cheap–wow, all you really need to get started is a pen and some paper. You don’t need to be anywhere special, you don’t need to be looking at anything in particular, you don’t even need lessons in how to do it. You don’t need to’ve read certain books, or be able to Discuss Dostoyevsky Wittily with Other Writers. Like all the arts, if you really want to do it, you’ll find the time and you’ll find a way. (F’rinstance– you can draw with just a pen and a piece of paper, too. And you can dance late at night in your room in sneakers, special shoes optional).
Why is there such a culture–such an intellectual black hole–built up around ‘writing a novel’? Writers aren’t just writers, they’re people who write–no one can be JUST a writer, and no number of write-culture fetish devices can make you a literary machine. Having a goddamn Hemingwrite doesn’t make you Susan Sontag. Nothing makes you Susan Sontag. In fact, I’d be willing to bet Susan Sontag wasn’t really Susan Sontag–at least, not the Susan Sontag who is portrayed to us folks who aren’t Susan Sontag.
Writing is something that comes from within. All this intellectual bullshit attached to it–where you put the commas, how to get an agent, whether or not your writing is good enough, smart enough, witty enough, whether or not you live ‘the life’–is just bullshit. And, while I might argue that whether or not you should attempt publication is a skill-based call, writing itself isn’t. All you need is a surface, a writing implement, and some basic literacy.
So. In this world, where the internet allows for instant sharing and the simultaneous curse and blessing of a ‘writing community’ in the smallest hometown, let’s try to remember that. Writing comes from within. And if you really want to write–if it’s something you HAVE to do–you’ll find a way.
That being said:
I thought about that Hemingwrite a lot. I thought about my reaction to it. And, in the end, I’m not sure my reaction was any better than anyone the hell else’s.
Because it doesn’t matter what you write on. It doesn’t matter what amulets and charms you employ in the process, what magical incense you light in your prayers to the Writergod. So long as you do it, if you want to do it.
I wish there wasn’t this idea of a writing culture. I do. I think it’s damaging, dangerous, encourages homogeneity, etc.
But maybe what I think doesn’t matter. Because it sure as hell exists. And, as long as it exists, there’ll be those hawkers at the fair selling ‘useful tools’–relics for luck, the bones of silent saints. And hell, these guys are almost certainly in earnest. The reviews I’ve seen for the Hemingwrite say it works just fine.
But are their products useless? Maybe to me. I can’t tell you how to write, though. And there’s power in such things, and there’s power in self-confidence.
Julius Caesar might not’ve cared for the results, but even he still took the auspices.