Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On writing: Richard Brinsley Sheridan's thought for the day

Sometimes when I wander over to writers' blogs where they're talking about writing a novel in a week or how many words they write a day, I wonder about a couple of things, especially with NaNoWriMo and its children coming up in November:

1. Who's reading those words?
2. Are those words worth reading?

If you're Margaret Atwood, writing 2000 words a day of Margaret Atwood-level prose is one thing. Same is true for Joyce Carol Oates or Anthony Grafton. But what about mere mortals like poor toiling academics?

I wonder this about academic writing when people tell about the many words they write in a day or promote their writing zealously on Twitter.  Sometimes those posts or articles are worth it, but only about 1/10 of the links that I've followed say anything genuinely new. Some books look totally worth it (like Rees's Refrigeration Nation) but others--maybe not.

Maybe that says more about the links that I've been enticed to follow than the quality of what's out there being promoted.  Maybe, too, it taps into a Calvinist distrust of "getting above yourself" like the one that Atwood and Alice Munro have talked about--that what's being advertised so heavily can't be good.

But as I slog my way toward inspiration and a completed manuscript, eking out words, I think of Richard Brinsley Sheridan:

You write with ease, to show your breeding;
But easy writing's vile hard reading.

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