(A follow-up to my earlier post: On Writers.)
The thing about most writers is that they pretty much spend their entire lives in willful yet miserable isolation. I say “willful” because, that’s just what most writers do: they sequester themselves away within their private world of books and mini-bars and hardwood floors and drawn curtains and darkness and there they hunch over typewriters and laptops and dutifully churn out the words the world needs to hear, and they do this because being alone is the best way to enter that mental landscape where the juice flows freely and the muse sings the loudest. And I say “miserable” because even though a writer recognizes that he needs this lifestyle of solitude and silence if he ever hopes to hone his craft, he nevertheless dislikes it because being alone can sometimes be beyond difficult.
The writer’s primary task is to take the reader somewhere. For the fiction writer, this means leading the reader away from real life and into something false, or “make-believe” for the purpose of entertainment and distraction (though there’s no question that fiction can be used to comment on certain aspects of reality). For the nonfiction writer, it means leading the reader into the very heart of real life… to confront what is found there. Both are important, yes; but I feel much more at home with the latter rather than the former.
The writer who vomits the same books over and over with only the names and specifics changed is not a writer. Such a person is merely a salesman who’s perhaps good with words. But a true writer, on the other hand, is someone who brings to the table something new to say about life and what it means to be human, regardless of whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. I think to be a true writer, ultimately, is to be a kind of missionary who conveys an original outlook on reality through his/her craft.
Writers always think what they have to say is important. Most of the time, it’s really only important to them. Very few of us break through to the coveted best-seller list. And if I may be blunt, much of what makes it to that list is, well, drivel. I don’t mean that the writing isn’t good… but it does seem like every new book from a best-selling author is essentially their previous book regurgitated with a slightly different spin and the names changed. Not always, but most of the time. Now, while I would not presume to compare any of my own drivel to the level of their drivel, I can promise you that the shit I write is not a regurgitation of anything. I’m not saying I don’t pull it out of my ass, because in a sense that is exactly what I do… but I hope I can at least make the assertion that what I have to say is somewhat original (nothing could ever be truly original, you understand, but humor me, if you will).