More than 3,450,000 pageviews from 150 countries


Sunday, April 16, 2017

John Gardner on Learning to Write

Books on writing tend to make much of how difficult it is to become a successful writer, but the truth is that, though the ability to write well is partly a gift--like the ability to play basketball well, or to outguess the stock market--writing ability is mainly a product of good teaching supported by a deep-down love of writing. Though learning to write takes time and a great deal of practice, writing up to the world's ordinary standards is fairly easy. As a matter of fact, most of the books one finds in drugstores, supermarkets, and even small-town libraries are not well written at all; a smart chimp with a good creative-writing teacher and a real love of sitting around banging a typewriter could have written books vastly more interesting and elegant. [This is like saying a human with a love for bananas could leap from tree to tree.] Most grown-up behavior, when you come right down to it, is decidedly second-class. People don't drive their cars as well, or wash their ears as well, or eat as well, or even play the harmonica well....This is not to say people are terrible and should be replaced by machines; people are excellent and admirable creatures; efficiency isn't everything. But for the serious young writer who wants to get published, it is encouraging to know that most of the professional writers out there are push-overs.

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction, originally published in 1983. [Gardner (1933-1982) was a literary novelist, critic, and English professor. What he wrote about publishing and published writers when The Art of Fiction  came out may have been true. Today, it is a lot less true. Published writers are very good, and it is not easy becoming a successful, published writer. Gardner's book on writing is still a classic, and should be read by anyone who aspires to the literary life.] 

No comments:

Post a Comment