Why We Write – Edited by Meredith Maran 

George Orwell wrote in his essay on why people write and it is mainly down to these four reasons :

1. Sheer egoism

2 Aesthetic enthusiatiasm 

3. Hstorical impulse

4. Political purpose

Yet the twenty writers who were interviewed in this book -which a portion of the proceed from the sale of this book was donated to the youth literacy program 826 National – do not fall into these categories.  Many explained that they write because they felt the need,  or that it was something that they have been doing all along. 

I admit of the twenty authors,  I have only read Ann Patchett and heard of Jodie Picoult but have never read her.  So Ann Patchett’s chapter was the first I turned to. The second admission is that I didn’t read all the authors in this book. 

Each chapter starts with an introduction to the author by the editor,  and a text box gives the profile of the authors. Almost all have a degree in either English/history or law, with a good majority with MFA, giving me the reassurance that I made the right choice to study MA. I was surprised a few were graduates from the Ohio Writer’s Workshop,  which I had taken two online writing courses from,  and had contemplated doing a MA there.

Another text box at the end has Words of Wisdom for Writers which I found many good advices and I shall provide a few quotes at the end. 

Mostly the writers write because of a passion and not for money.  Not surprisingly,  they were rejected many times before publishing their first book. The joy of seeing their novel in print is unforgettable and I can’t wait for that experience. 

It was a coincidence that featured author John Frey,  the author publicly chastised by Oprah Winfrey for exaggerating in his memoir, A Million Little Pieces,   was discussed in my Creative Non Fiction (CNF)  class last night. Apparently he was persuaded to sell his fiction as non fiction by his publicist which lead to law suits and the Oprah episode. 

Here are some words of wisdom I practice in my writing that the authors advocate as well:

Isabel Allende – it’s worth the work to find the precise word that will create a feeling of describe a situation.  Use a thesaurus,  use your imagination,  scratch your head until it comes to you,  but find the write word. 

David Baldacci – write for the person you know best: yourself. 

Jennifer Egan – read at the level at which you want to write. Exercising is a good analogy for writing.  Even 15 minutes a day will keep you in the habit. One should accept bad writing as a warm up exercise that allows you to write well. 

Sara Gruen – planning and research are all fine.  But don’t just think about writing.  Write! Opening yesterday’s file can be the hardest part of a writer’s day.  But that’s what writing is: building a bunch of yesterday’s scribbling into the book of today and tomorrow. 

Gish Jen – writing is a ridiculous thing to do for money. 

Mary Karr – “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter.  Try again. Fail better. ” – Samuel Beckett 

Michael Lewis – A lot of my best decisions were made in a state of self delusion.  When you are trying to create a career as a writer,  a little delusional thinking goes a long way. 

Walter Mosley – the people who fail at writing are the people who gives up because of external pressures,  or because they didn’t get published in a certain amount of time. You got to exert your will over the situation. 

– don’t expect to write a first draft like a book you read and loved. What you don’t see when you read a published book is the 20th or 30th drafts that happened before it got published. 

– “Genius is one percent inspiration,  ninety-nine percent perspiration. ” – Thomas Edison 

Ann Patchett – staying focused,  sitting at your desk,  is your number one job as a writer.  There’s always something else to do. Don’t do it! Remember,  time applied equals work completed. 

And finally,  the gem of advise I take heart to:

Jodi Picoult – take a writing course.  It’s how you’ll learn to get and give feedback,  and it’ll teach you to write on demand. 

– write even when you don’t feel like writing.  There is no muse. It’s hard work. You can always edit a bad page,  but you can’t edit a blank page. 

– Read.  It’ll inspire you to write as well as the authors who came before you. 

So,  why do I want write

Unbelievable as it may seem,  my writing interest was sparked by reading Mills and Boons in my teenage years.  I wanted to write the same kind of romance story that physically made my heart skip a beat when the male protagonist confesses his love at the last chapter. I closed the book and sighed,  if only I can write like that by transporting the stories in my head into words.  

I know.  Cheesy right.  But that teenage dream stuck and so here I am,  four decades later trying to fulfil the dream. 


About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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