September 03, 2015

Getting It Right

I recently read an article (one might even call it a rant) against prolific writers. The argument isn't new. I'm actually related to someone (by marriage, luckily, and not blood) who believes each writer is only capable of producing one "good" book. No really. That was an ugly Thanksgiving. My dad nearly choked on his turkey.

I've also read the belief (put out by some writers) that successful authors should step down, stop writing, in order to give upcoming wordsmiths a little shelf space.

As a prolific writer, I'm obviously against the concept that someone should stop writing just because it—what?—annoys someone else? Won't qualify as literary? Is in some way subpar?

One of the positions I read recently stated that an author's excellent work might get lost in the mass of output.

First, I was simply baffled. When I discover a writer I admire, and I learn that person is prolific, I am thrilled. I devour everything I can.

And that's when I realized what I dislike the most about the argument.

1) A writer doesn't always know what is going to be his or her best work.
2) "Best work" is subjective.

I tend to be drawn to books, music, and art that doesn't always reach the mainstream. The books I adore—the words that move me—don't necessarily equal a writer's "best" or most popular. My favorite book—hands down—for more than twenty-five years—is Getting It Right. I know Elizabeth Jane Howard penned other books that readers may have enjoyed more or thought were better. (Some of her books own 70+ reviews. Getting It Right has four.) But this book completes me.

Then there's 3) What the fuck.

Really. It's like the people who put you down because you have tattoos. (This happened to me back in the day—before it was so acceptable to be inked.) And I remember hearing the ultimate response: The difference between people with tattoos and people without is that tattooed people don't care whether or not you have a tattoo.

Same fucking thing with writing. Write a lot. Write a little. But it's my opinion that prolific writers don't give a fuck how many words other writers are putting out there. A writer who thinks his or her words are better because there are fewer of them? Quality over quantity? Less is more?

I have one thing to say: You don't live in my head. I write the stories because there are voices telling me to. They never shut up. They never stop talking. I don't get a break. I have written well over one thousand stories. Many will never see the light of print. But I wouldn't know how to stop the words from coming. And why would I want to?

I woke up this morning with the idea for a three-way. Two men and a woman who pretends to be a blow-up doll. I don't know where the idea came from. I don't know how I will ultimately execute the piece. But I woke up because the characters were already nagging at me. 4 a.m. came early—and I fought with the voices for a moment. Before I gave in.

But this is what I know to be true: The reason I write as much as I do, as hard as I do, as early in the morning and as late in the evening as I do, is because ultimately I'm just trying to get it right.


P.S. The longest story I've ever written began in 2006—and isn't finished yet. I don't know if I'll ever reach the end.


Giselle Renarde said...

1) A writer doesn't always know what is going to be his or her best work.
2) "Best work" is subjective.

YES!!! Pretty much every author I know says their best work sells 3 copies. The works we value aren't necessarily the ones that speak widely to readers.

Lisabet Sarai said...

It's not worth wasting your emotional energy worrying about what other people think, Alison. We write what we write. Period.

And I can't wait to read the story about the blow-up doll role play. Great idea.