How not to become a writer

If you couldn’t get to Denvention back in August, but want to read the excellent Guest of Honour speech, it is up on the internet and you can read it here. (The GoH was the wonderfully talented and lovely lady, Lois McMaster Bujold, btw).

There were a number of things she said that resonated with me.
Here is my comments on one of them:

LMB: “...the notion of the writer as the heroic lone creator, a picture held and advanced by many non-writers, which is an outright lie, and evil insofar as it is taught to children. I know of no writer or other artist anywhere who hasn’t come out of some context of other artists and a supporting community, with its own conversation — or argument — even though those contexts are usually edited out of the historical picture for simplicity.”

I think I must be the exception, then.

  • No one supported me in an artistic sense, until after I had an agent. (My husband was supportive, in that he encouraged me, but he never read my work.)
  • I never met other writers, or editors, or fans.
  • I knew four people who read sf/f for pleasure, and they were all members of my immediate family. They did not read my work until after I had an agent. Two of them lived in another country.
  • No one else read my work at all (except to reject it, sometimes with a comment).
  • No one offered input until my agent read the book “The Aware” and took me on as an author.
  • I never told anyone I was writing anything, except my immediate family, until I was published.
  • Back in those days, there was no internet.
  • I had no access to writing classes, courses, or even libraries full of books on how to write.

Yeah, I was the lone creator, making mistakes and learning all by myself. Dunno about “heroic” though; I think “bloody stupid” is probably more accurate. There must have been a better way to do it, even in Malaysia in the 1970s and 80s.

But I did it. I just took longer than I should have… This post is really the quintessential essay on how not to become a writer.


How not to become a writer — 3 Comments

  1. You’re the second of my writer friends who did it that way. It makes me feel I’m wasting my time. I’ve had loads of help and support through writing classes and groups over the last five years (and I was writing alone for seven years before that) and I still show little sign of being any good. Sometimes I wonder why I bother – but if I stop, I miss it. I kind of miss it like you miss banging your head against a wall, but I miss it, all the same. I miss the fun of playing with my imaginary friends on the screen, as Robin Hobb puts it:-)

    Oh well, I don’t like bowls, anyway…

  2. Satima, I started with my first book aged nine or ten. It took me an awful loooooooong time to get to publication.

    What kept me going was not so much the belief that I would get there one day, but that I just loved what I was doing. So keep on…

  3. I would imagine loving what you are doing is half the battle. As a youngster I loved to write poetry. As an oldster I don’t feel the urge or the love any more so don’t do it.

    I am very glad you love what your doing Glenda, I love what you write. And, Satima, I have confidence you will get there.

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