Re: Thinking Patterns (was RE: Interviews (5 Year Question))

Subject: Re: Thinking Patterns (was RE: Interviews (5 Year Question))
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2001 18:10:59 -0700

Andrew Plato wrote:

> most writers see their work as purely a mechanism for expression
> either via language, format, or the ever-dreaded process.

>From what I've seen, this is a definition of an amateur. Professional
writers of any kind are interested in making whatever they're writing
work. A writer who falls in love with a phrase, or a format, or a
process is unable to think clearly about making the document work, and
is therefore not a professional.

> "This document is great because I have expressed it in a such and
> such manner."

The key here is the word "I." The fantasist and essayist Harlan Ellison
used to be fond of a quote to the effect that writers need to take the
work seriously, but not themselves; the first (the quote said) was
essential, the second disastrous.

I always try to remember that advice. Nine times out of ten when I start
getting irritated by criticism, I'm taking myself more seriously than
the work - and the criticism is valid.

(Sorry that I can't remember the exact quote here).

> They are
> trapped inside their own mind, unable to overcome their pre-occupation with
> their role and the demands of the moment.

If I had a dime for every tech-writer I've met who was attracted to the
profession because they wanted to be able to say that they earned a
living as a writer - well, let's just say that I would spend my days
rolling coins into bankrolls, instead of writing.

A fantasy writer I used to know was always amused by his reception at
conventions. He was very flamboyant, usually dressing in full Scottish
regalia, and treating everyone in sight to drink or food on the few
occasions when he actually had money, and talking into the small hours.
Many people obviously envied him, and thought he lived the good life
yearround. What they didn't know, he said, was that, except for the two
or three weekends a year he went to conventions, he was spending weeks
at a stretch when he didn't do much except move between his bed and his
keyboard. But most people only saw his public persona, and thought that
it was what a writer's life was about.

I think that some version of this image of the writer is in many
people's minds when they think about writing. They don't think of the
hard slogging that writing actually involves, and, when the inevitable
disillusion sets in, instead of taking satisfaction in a job well done,
they take refuge in the latest buzz, or in grammatical nitpicking, or
office politics.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

"In the bathroom mirror they try that Joan of Arc look again
Two parts Ingrid Berman to one part Shirley MacLaine
The wounds of time kill you but the surgeon's knife only stings
Jerusalem on the jukebox, little angels beat your wings."
-Richard Thompson, "Jerusalem on the Jukebox"


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Re: Thinking Patterns (was RE: Interviews (5 Year Question)): From: Andrew Plato

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