Saturday, March 9, 2013

Some Rules for Writers

"Be united, but not closed off.
Be humble, but not fearful.
Be simple, but not naive.
Be thoughtful, but not complicated.
Enter into dialogue with everyone, but remain yourself."

I think that the instinctive following of these rules is what distinguishes the mature-enough person who is currently ready for the writing profession from the immature wannabe striking a writing pose.

The Wannabe closes himself in with his own little writing in-group. If he ever emerges, he will use common sayings and writing rules from within the group as if all writers everywhere must know them or be ranked an amateur. The true writer seeks out contact with the wider world, even with people who do not agree with him and are not impressed with him.

The Wannabe is seems arrogant as he announces word of his latest self-pubbed masterpiece, assuming this announcement is as newsworthy as a new James Patterson book. But all this just masks his fear that he is 'not a real writer'. The real writer remains humble--- and thus able to learn and to correct his own work. He does not claim his work is brilliant, or 'just right' for any given reader. If he wins writing awards, he does not feel the need to mention them.

The Wannabe does not want to seem simple, so his tongue is always coming out with just the right trendy phrase from just the right elite little segment of the culture. But he is so naive that he often uses these phrases in a way that alienates just the little elite-group he is trying to emulate. The true writer is known for being simple in his words and his way of life.

The Wannabe thinks that good writing is complicated writing. He brags when a computer assesses the reading grade level of his work at 'early college' and mocks a fellow writing-wannabe whose work is at the sixth grade level.  The true writer writes to communicate, not to impress others with the scholarly nature of his vocabulary--- and so he rejoices when his work is tagged as being at the sixth-grade reading level.

The Wannabe, on those occasions when he condescends to dialogue with others, is influenced and changed by that dialogue so much that he does not remain himself. You can see examples of what I mean when some young person joins a new group--- political, religious, or intellectual--- and starts spouting the jargon of that group to the point he alienates anyone who isn't also a part of the new group. The wise writer, on the other hand, does not rule out communication with people of all backgrounds and beliefs, but he is able to remain true to his own beliefs no matter what the people around him think.

Now, about the quote: the person who said it was a Catholic priest once known as Joseph Ratzinger. While he was not speaking specifically about writing in this quote, he is known as a man who has written many scholarly books on theological topics. As Pope Benedict XVI, he continued to write, in spite of his very many responsibilities. So he is a good role model for writers and a source of sound advice.

1 comment:

Aurora Smith said...

Balance is important :)

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