Sunday, November 12, 2006

Patricia Hampl

from her essay "The Need to Say It" in The Writer on Her Work, Vol 2., Janet Sternburg, ed.

Write about what you know. This instruction from grade school was the first bit of writing advice I was ever given. Terrific - that was just what I wanted to do. But privately, in a recess of my personality I could not gain access to by wish or by will, I was afraid this advice was a lie, concocted and disseminated nationwide by English teachers. The real, the secret commandment was Write about what matters...

Maybe I wouldn't have fretted over the standard composition advice if I had valued my life in a simple way. Or rather, if I had valued the life around me. But literary types are born snobs, yearning for the social register of significance....I felt, I believed, my own life (and anything that touched it) was just so much still water...

Maybe being oneself is always an acquired taste. For a writer it's a big deal to bow - or kneel or get knocked down - to the fact that you are going to write your own books and not somebody else's. Not even those books of the somebody else you thought it was your express business to spruce yourself up to be.

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1 Comments:

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Wow. That's really an astute observation. I think many of us (myself included) spend a lot of time in that sort of mood (sprucing oneself up for something else).

 

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