Writing as Art: Is it really my prerogative to write however I want?
Posted by monicamynk
Final post the discussion from Richard Bausch’s “Letter to a Young Writer.”
I could sing the praises of forums all day long. In fact, I’ve had a free education from them and owe them many dues. Still, I hold this one offense against them. They are full of people who refuse to listen to helpful advice and keep on writing bad stories.
An argument that’s often made is that the author has the liberty to create whatever they wish. If they want to self-publish their dribble, they’re the ones out the money and it doesn’t hurt anyone except for them and the ten people that purchase their books. Maybe so.
It’s always hard to listen to criticism, even when it’s given in the kindest spirit. Still, it’s 100% essential.
At the same time, sometimes it’s just as important to not listen. Not everyone who gives you writing advice will give GOOD advice. Also, it’s important to find your own voice and style.
Bausch’s final piece of advice is “Be wary of all general advice.” He says:
Destroy everything that precedes this commandment if, for you, it gets in the way of writing good stories. Because for every last assertion in this letter, there are several notable exceptions. Finally, try to remember that what you are aiming to do is a beautiful, even a noble, thing _ trying to write or make the trust as straightly and honestly and artfully as you can.
Once, I had an art professor lean a broom up against a crate and challenge the class, asking us if it was art. After much spirited debate, we decided that it depends on who you ask. I think a story is the same way, even a poorly written one.
After all, at the end of the day, why do we do it? We all have a story burning inside us that we want to get out. And audience or no audience, fame or no fame, there’s a lot of merit in just getting the words down on paper. True writers, I believe, write for themselves with the tiny sliver of hope that someone else might someday read and enjoy it.
Bausch says this much more eloquently than I can, so we’ll finish this post up with his words.
It is also always an inherently optimistic act because it stems from the belief that there will be civilized others whose sensibilities you may affect if you are lucky and good enough and faithful to the task at hand. No matter how tragic the vision is, it is always a hopeful occupation. And, therefore, you have to cultivate your ability to balance things, to entertain high hopes without letting those hopes to become expectations. To do your work without worrying too much about what the world will have to say about it or do to it. Mostly, of course, the world will ignore it. And so, you will have that in common with many very great writers, good men and women who came before you.