Friday, July 29, 2011

More on Writing

I finished Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones and am still working on Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way.

There's a lot that I like in the Goldberg book especially. She is absolutely right when she says that you have to read a lot and write a lot, if you want to be a writer.

But both books still seem to argue that anyone can be a writer. I'm not sure. Most people in our society are literate and can put words down on paper. Does that mean they can become good writers? I've known people who worked for years on writing and never became very good. Why not? A refusal to listen to criticism, often. An unwillingness to study their craft closely. A lack of imagination. A lack of feeling for language. Maybe simply a lack of gift, whatever that may mean.

Cameron and Goldberg are both teaching people how to be saner, which is great. But the focus required to be really good at anything may not result in a well-adjusted person. I am very much a fan of sanity. I would never encourage anyone to be less sane and happy. But being good at anything requires a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of focus. It may make you a wee bit unbalanced.

For example, there is this story:
Olivia Gentile’s Life List is the remarkable story of Phoebe Snetsinger, a woman trapped by her life as homemaker, who found liberation in bird watching. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, she began traveling the world, not seeking a cure, but in search of rare birds—becoming a kind of ornithologist’s heroine, and living another eighteen years.

What this review (by A.M. Homes) does not mention is that Snetsinger flew the coop, left her family to chase rare birds. She was a very focused lady, whose achievements were remarkable.

She died in 1999 in a car accident in Madagascar. Her last bird, per Wikipedia, was the Red-shouldered vanga, only known to science since 1997.


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