The Temptation of Fame: Art and Motivation

…or, why writers, like bands, are better before they’re discovered.


So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery.” Virginia Woolf

I write because I like the world — as it is — and want to see it, up-close.  I can’t find the world in many people’s books (by and large). The real world seems like a faded copy of a copy in a lot of stories; even the grit is unreal, much too thoughtful to do any damage. I read many stories, everything from University of Iowa grads to porn-pervs, and am largely left with an elevated sense of distance. So much of what “writers” do places their talent front-and-center; what might have otherwise been a quick trip to the park becomes an exposition of (boring) botanical expertise. Why do they have to mention the names of trees —  every tree?  Is that a requirement — authors must wear long, drapy scarves, not know how to say hello in a coffee shop, and know the names of trees? 

What I want is a story I can walk around in, where characters are actually people who have jobs other than “writer,” “teacher,” “bookstore clerk,” or “student”  — and don’t know the difference between beech and magnolia trees. 


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