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Writing, why bother?

May 29, 2013

Writing, why bother?


I just figured something out and now it seems so obvious that I should be embarrassed to write it down, but I’m going to anyway. You know the phrase “write what you know?” That’s not it, not it at all. It should be “Write what ONLY YOU know.” I was sitting with a cup of tea and a huge stack of books and wondering what, exactly I thought I was doing, and as I mulled over the three or four storylines that are in one way or another the beginnings of new novels, and then the one or two non-fiction concepts…not to mention the nagging feeling that I should only be writing poetry because when I do write poetry it’s so….well….easy….And I thought, ‘Who needs another novel?” “Is it possible to write a great novel now, with so many writers in the world writing in so many forms and levels, what exactly is a great novel anyway?” This last question came to mind with a vengeance last year when I reread Hemingway’s The Moveable Feast. Seriously, would he even be able to get his book published if it came out today? I don’t think so. Too much passive voice, homophobic weirdness, an ego the size of a house…We don’t have time for that these days. Maybe back in the early 20th c. we needed a Man to lead the way into an American literary style, but today? Not so much. Somehow, in fact, I think we need to push away the suffocating blanket of the idea that only men can write, or be poets. Where on earth did that idea come from in the first place? Men, of course. Women are not only challenged in themselves to be the best writer they can be, but they are automatically given second chair to authors who happen to be men. I confess, I can’t get over this. Are Jane and Emily and Virginia aberrations? If a man writes in a woman’s voice and pulls it off, he gets lauded as a wielding a golden pen. If a woman does it, it’s a soap opera. And don’t get me started about youth versus age. The Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford claims to be ageless in its application (something I’ve always lusted after so I’ve read it many times), and yet in the description of the program it clearly talks about the cadre of ‘young writers’. So which is it?

            Sorry, I’ve got off the track here. Back to my point. What to write? Write what only you know. I mean it. Which book, story, poem, blog is the one that you are uniquely qualified to write? Put all the rest aside for later or never. The world needs to read what you know as truth.


            I know the truth — give up all other truths!

            No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle.

            Look — it is evening, look, it is nearly night:

            what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals?

            The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew,

            the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet.

            And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we

            who never never let each other sleep above it.

Marina Tsvetaeva ” I Know the Truth”

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Virginia permalink
    May 30, 2013 1:53 am

    Absolutely. Also, did you enjoy Woody Allen’s take on Hemingway in Midnight in Paris? Just as pompous as could be.

  2. Sally Roberts permalink
    May 30, 2013 1:02 pm

    Oh, this is wonderful! Since I am in the finishing throes of my first book, and at the beginning of searching for a way to sell/market it, get a publisher etc, when I saw the title of the post – “Writing, why bother?” – I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry…….currently feeling a post – lunar eclipse vulnerability as well, not to mention dealing with the coldest, wettest May temperatures in France since records began.

    Then I started reading, and sighed with relief. “Write what ONLY YOU know”” Messages come when we need them, do they not? I’m happy to say that whilst I have written about baking cakes and celebrating the rhythms of nature, and yes, lots of people can do that, but I have done it sprinkled with my own stories, my own truths, my own soul discoveries, and ultimately that is what will resonate and nourish.

    So thank you, thank you, thank you, once again.

    Time for tea and cake xxxxxxx

    P.S. Don’t get me started either on young writers or male writers…….what the world needs now is deep feminine wisdom, very likely hard earned too xxx


    • May 30, 2013 4:51 pm

      Thanks, Sally! Tea, cakes and the wisdom of the divine feminine sounds perfect to me!

  3. Bob Allen permalink
    June 4, 2014 5:30 pm

    Jane Galer!! It’s, me, Bob. Bob Allen!! Don’t know what made me look you up…how long since Sedona?? Great to hear you are well…you are amazing!

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