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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

Please Stop Writing

In an article from The Weekend Australian, Jenny Sinclair suggests that all writing course workshops should be outlawed. That the only people who should write are those that must write.

And then I got cancer. Death threatened, if merely statistically. Suddenly I left the dishes undone, let the washing pile up, declined social invitations, turned my back on my husband in the evenings, ran to the computer to write the second my child was asleep. I completed scenes as I waited for chemotherapy, scribbled plot outlines in the radiotherapist’s waiting room, wrote dialogue on the tram, jotted down two-word ideas in a notebook while my car idled at the traffic lights. I wasn’t sure where it was taking me, but in the fourth month, on a holiday to give me relief from the relentless treatments, I had an epiphany: it didn’t matter to me if I was any good as long as I wrote. The realisation was like a starburst in the dark of a hot, sleepless night in Thailand, and it hasn’t left me since.

But you should read the whole article. It isn’t long and it contains nothing but solid good sense. I was drawn to this piece by a blog post on Sharon Bakar’s Bibliobubuli.

5 Responses to “Please Stop Writing”

  1. LorriM says:

    The article was definitely sensible, and was an interesting read.

    jb says: Hi Lorri. So refreshing to find something so succinctly and clearly visualized.

  2. Shawn says:

    It’s a good article, but it all depends on what you mean by “people who must write”. If you only mean people who have a great poetic desire or a neurological compulsion, then you discount a great many writers who wrote to make money (Dostoevsky, Raymond Chandler, and even Charles Dickens), and very good writers who, it could be argued, merely wanted to be famous (Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote).

    Of course these people have other reasons for writing, but the thing that got them started was not a desperate love of words or a reverence for the act of writing. Even the author of the article really only found this intense desire to write after she was staring death in the face. There are a lot of motivations for writing. That “must” in “I must write” can come from a lot of places.

    Having said all that, it is a good article with some good advice–actually, all the writing advice you post here I’ve found useful. Now it’s back to plodding forward laboriously and unromantically with a short story I’m working on 🙂

    jb says: Hi Shawn, and yes, point taken. I think that the central claim of the writer is partly tongue-in-cheek. After all, she’s involved in a course herself. Good to hear that you find the blog articles useful. And good luck with the short-story.

  3. Andrea says:

    When I started reading this post, I was thinking: “Are you telling me I’m wasting $500 on a writing course that I shouldn’t be taken?” I pretty much agree with Shawn. Passion for the same subject can drive different people in different directions. Good article!

    jb says: Hi Andrea, I always think irony is one of a writer’s best friends. The really good advice in the article is in the final paragraph: if you want to write, don’t forget, reading, widely and voraciously, reading the classics, reading the modern masters. For that, there’s no substitute.

  4. Dave says:

    Interesting article, but I strongly disagree with the the notion that “Writing is not a good in itself that everyone should be encouraged to attempt, such as cycling to work or eating more broccoli.” That’s both elitist and self-defeating, I think. It seems to me that the great literary cultures of the past — Heian Japan, Tang Dynasty China, Arab Andalusia, Elizabethan England — did indeed encourage every educated person to become proficient in several different rhetorical modes, to such an extent that poetry and letters became an essential form of social capital. Our own culture with its emphasis on the artist or writer as a lone, often alienated individual only serves to marginalize writers and diminish their potential audience.

  5. nick says:

    The only conclusion I can come to is you mean people who have to write to make money should. People who aren’t writing for money shouldn’t. There nothing wrong with writing in my opinion infact it’s a big part of are lives. If no one wrote anything we would have nothing to read.