Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Talent of the Room

Thanks to my pal Mary Akers for this fine essay on writing by Michael Ventura.

Here's the begining of the article:

People who are young at writing — and this does not necessarily mean they’re young in years — ask me, now and again, if I can tell them something useful about the task. Task is my word, not theirs, and it may seem a harsh and formal word, but before writing is anything else it’s a task. Only gradually do you learn enough for it to become a craft. (As for whether writing becomes your art — that isn’t really up to you. The art can be there in the beginning, before you know a thing, or it may never be there no matter what you learn.)

“The only thing you really need,” I tell these people, “is the talent of the room. Unless you have that, your other talents are worthless.”

Writing is something you do alone in a room. Copy that sentence and put it on your wall because there’s no way to exaggerate or overemphasize this fact. It’s the most important thing to remember if you want to be a writer. Writing is something you do alone in a room.

Before any issues of style, content or form can be addressed, the fundamental questions are: How long can you stay in that room? How many hours a day? How do you behave in that room? How often can you go back to it? How much fear (and, for that matter, how much elation) can you endure by yourself? How many years — how many years — can you remain alone in a room?

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