Tag Archives: Writing

Are Today’s Writers Irrelevant?

Writers “can make an impact on the social and political life of the nation by using their reputations as thinkers and writers.” But, “When I look at the contemporary scene, it seems to me that writers make no impact at all.”

“Writing, I am afraid, has become a self-promoting activity. To see writers hankering for rewards is to lose faith in their ability to play any role beyond a selfish one. […]”

“…the mystique surrounding the writer has all but disappeared. Writers are now seen at so close at hand that there is no longer any awe surrounding them. By making the writer a celebrity, the media has weakened the writer’s role and taken away to some extent, her freedom. To want to be known and to be known -both these erode the writer’s freedom.”

“Fame brings its own pressures and Virginia Woolf ‘s words say it beautifully: “Now I think Shakespeare was very happy in this that there was no impediment of fame, but his genius flowed out of him.”

From: m.timesofindia.com/life-style/books/features/I-am-frustrated-by-the-impotence-of-writers/articleshow/49308748.cms

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Writers Can Make a Better World

“Literature is constructive as well as reflective, and there is certain power in this.

Novels rising from moments of conflict and hardship sharpen focus on the inequalities and struggles of those times.

… such narratives raise awareness of key social issues and potentially move the culture toward empathy, understanding, change – or else underscore unfortunate cultural resistance, the failure of those things to eventuate.

…writers and artists who direct their work toward the prevailing issues of the time can […] alter the real world, for the better.”

From: theconversation.com/writing-for-good-in-the-contemporary-novel-of-purpose-48104

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Morally Impoverished American Literature

“Everything is contained in the American novel except ideas,” Philip Rahv wrote exasperatedly in 1940, just as the European novel achieved, in the hands of Musil and Mann, its intellectual apotheosis. Obsessed with private experience, American writers, Rahv charged, were uniquely indifferent “to ideas generally, to theories of value, to the wit of the speculative and problematical.”

Why was it, he wondered, that Dostoyevsky “appears to possess degrees of passion, conviction and engagement with deep moral issues that we — here, today — cannot or do not permit ourselves”? Compared with the Russians, Wallace lamented, “the novelists of our own place and time look so thematically shallow and lightweight, so morally impoverished.”

We must grant Wallace at least part of his complaint. America’s postwar creative-writing industry hindered literature from its customary reckoning with the acute problems of the modern epoch. It boosted instead a cult of private experience and what Nietzsche identified as the style of “literary decadence,” in which “the word becomes sovereign and leaps out of the sentence, the sentence reaches out and obscures the meaning of the page, and the page comes to life at the expense of the whole.”

From: nytimes.com/2015/09/20/books/review/whatever-happened-to-the-novel-of-ideas.html?_r=0&referrer=

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Real Writers Follow Their Rhythm

Writers… “we’re storytellers, craftsman. We do care deeply about language. We want our words to dance to a particular rhythm… One of the tools we use is repetition. Unfortunately, it’s the tool most despised by bad editors…  English teachers, those non-writers responsible for teaching us how to write. It begins when they circle a word that appears a few times in a single paragraph and ask for an alternative…

English teachers who don’t practice the craft of writing — and that’s the vast majority — can’t ruin real writers. They can just give them bad grades. Real writers know that writing has to be heard, not just read.  They find a beat, a rhythm, and they follow it. They can’t help it.

But the rest of the class walks away with the false knowledge that good writing is something you can diagram; that it’s meant to be seen and not heard; that rhythm is a tool for poetry, not prose.”

From: washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/09/04/how-corporate-america-killed-my-writing/

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Literary Creativity in Intrinsic Motivation

“A creative writer should be motivated by interest, challenge and satisfaction, and not by external pressures, otherwise he/she will fall by the wayside when external forces fade or when they cannot withstand the editorial pressure.

A renowned psychologist at Harvard University, in her research, invited art experts to assess the work of 29 professional artists.

Unknown to the experts was that each artist had been asked to submit 10 commissioned and 10 non-commissioned works. The experts rated the non-commissioned works as being more creative than the commissioned ones. The study ascertained a link between intrinsic motivation and creativity.

It states that the higher the creator’s intrinsic motivation, the more creative and original one will be. What kills literary creativity […] is the desire for instant fame and money.”

From: mediamaxnetwork.co.ke/people-daily/162827/what-separates-genuine-writers-from-shoddy-ones/

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Revolution Will Not Come From Materialistic Writers

“Though the mouth has hardly ever ceased to be “muzzled by the food it eats to live,” nature has always had this quaint way of producing those daring ones determined to go against the grain.”

“No doubt one has to have the conviction of steel to take such a stand, and this decision will not appeal to a highly materialist writer. The very rich who write for kicks are not too fussy about integrity or conviction, though they can be if they so desire.”

“There are stories galore about writers with a passion for truth but who under pressure were forced to compromise.”

“well-to-do folks with their full quota of daily calories, can write well but have nothing to say, as against poor folks who do the hard work and get the least calories, and have much to say but can’t write. Lao Tzu said: “Those who know do not speak; those who speak do not know”.

“writers and artists of integrity are most often found outside looking in armed with their criticism … for that’s where the revolution happens.”

From: stabroeknews.com/2015/opinion/letters/08/01/writing-always-has-a-reason/

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The Essence of Literature

“When you are reading books, drama, poetry, short stories, essays or any piece of literary work, you are opening the gateway to unbound imagination and allowing your intellect to grow by perceiving so many ideas out there, provided to you in the form of words. And then you are asked to dissect those words, question that piece of knowledge, examine that burst of idea, scrutinize the symbolic meanings, and critically analyze the writer’s philosophy. You start dwelling on human nature and the situations that we as beings find ourselves in, in this world. As a result, you develop a profound sense of life. Your mind becomes perceptive, knowledgeable, polished and one that sees the world with a deeper eye. That is the ‘point’ of Literature. That is what Literature gives you. To think, feel and see deeply, while expanding your horizons. I especially feel that young minds need to be indulged in innovative ways of creative writing that give them the opportunity to think freely, imagine, experiment, create and put into words their idea. This is the beauty of creative writing. It gives one the liberty to pick something that strikes him from the vast sea of his ideas and put it down on paper. The end product is a piece of literature that will reflect the person’s own character. That is the essence of Literature.”

FROM: nation.com.pk/blogs/16-Jun-2015/the-essence-of-literature

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Literary Auction Hype


Auctions unfortunately do not look at literary merit as much as they look at commercial merit. And when heavily marketed commercial books hammer the message: “read this book, read this book,” it skews independent judgement of even the most die-hard reader, forcing them to, at least, take a peek at this latest curiosity that everyone is talking about. Given that time is our most precious commodity these days, such peeks come at the expense of other books that may have grabbed the reader’s attention through non-promotional means.

I’m hoping that the author whose work was auctioned and who is now left to sign with the winning publisher, would use their judgement, take the long term view, and let the auction be used only as a yardstick to determine the “potential value” of their book. I’m hoping that they will settle on the publisher whom they feel will be the best fit for their career (after all, there will be more books in the pipeline from this author, we hope) rather than going with the highest bidder on just this single auctioned work. For the highest bid also comes with the highest expectation, and an author who does not earn his advance could get dropped for their next book by an “over-generous” publisher.

And as for readers, I hope that they … will stick to their own reading lists, compiled through due diligence rather than hype, and that they will not take those time-wasting detours just because an at-risk publisher has thrown the rest of his money after his moment of weakness at an auction and is touting the compelling but distracting message: “Read this. I put too much money behind this damned book and I need your help to bail me out!”

From: northumberlandview.ca/index.php?module=news&type=user&func=display&sid=34539

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Writers or Performers?

“In my first 15 or 20 years of authorship, I was almost never asked to give a speech or an interview. The written work was supposed to speak for itself, and to sell itself, sometimes even without the author’s photograph on the back flap.” –John Updike, The End of Authorship

A publishing contract is now more than an invitation to write. It is also a request for performance. The author becomes, as John Updike puts it in The End of Authorship, a “walking, talking advertisement for the book”. The very year the American novelist gave this speech in Washington, a publisher told me in passing: “Of course, we’ll fly you to the festivals, get you reading at shops and libraries.” Of course. One does not simply have talent, which Flannery O’Connor insisted was vital for a literary vocation. Now one is a talent: an artful player, with all the ambiguity of each word.

My point is not that there is anything necessarily vicious or vulgar about performance, or that we have lost a literary golden age: from enlightened literacy to primitive orality. The Romans regularly held public performances, in which poets tested their verse in a public laboratory. (Or lavatory. “You read to me as I shit,” complained first-century poet Martial in his Epigrams.) Pliny the Younger lamented that his listeners did not obey audience etiquette: “two or three clever persons … listened to it like deaf mutes.” Greek philosophy itself began with public performance; with the need to grab interest along with intellect. Put simply, we are not the first era to ask writers to tap-dance, and this request does not automatically corrupt literature.”

Read More: smh.com.au/entertainment/meet-the-author-why-writing-is-no-longer-just-about-the-words-20150512-ggywy3.html

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Writers Have a Huge Responsibility

“Literature matters. […]

It’s like this. When you read, you are involved in a private transaction between, on the one hand, you, and on the other, the book and the person standing behind the book, the author.

The act of reading brings two separate energies together. One is the text which is made by the writer, and other is your personality into which the text is imported. Reading merges you and the text together and once that union has been effected it can never be undone. The two are meshed.

And the reason I lay such stress on this process is that the act of taking words off the page and bringing them into your psyche will necessarily change you for ever because every time you read, you see, the words you ingest get added in or on to your personality, so when you finish a text you are not the same person that you were when you started.

This means writers have a huge responsibility because, quite literally, albeit incrementally, the things they write, once they’re read, change the character of their readers, for ever.”

From: irishtimes.com/culture/books/carlo-g%C3%A9bler-writing-matters-so-it-should-be-venerated-not-devalued-1.2145883

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