Sunday, March 30, 2008

Here's To Me

I have just read a wonderful essay on writing by Paul Robinson. You can find the book containing the essay through this link: "Opera, Sex, and Other Vital Matters".

The essay: "Why Write?" is an insightful piece laced with wit. I won't try and sum up Robinson's work, other than to offer some lines that made me pause. Robinson quickly dispels the idea that people write for money. They may think they are writing for money, but when the majority of writers pause and consider how many hours they spend and what the return is for their efforts, that concept quickly evaporates. Likewise dispelled is the idea that writing is something that professors do for tenure. Robinson points out that many professors continue to write long after they've achieved that end. So why? Why write?

One thing Robinson proposes is that "Writing is an act of self-clarification, in which we bring order to those ideas and sentiments that otherwise would remain muddled and inarticulate". I love that. Of course, writing isn't a guarantee that the muddled becomes unmuddled, but the act is a way to express thought in a manner that stimulates further thought.

Robinson goes on to note that "Actual readership is less important to the writer than imagined readership." I love that idea. Actual readership. In some cases my readership is me. Too often my work never goes further than my harddrive. But of course, Robinson would nod with understanding.

"The writer reads his own work with greater pleasure than any other reader." This narcissistic logic, according to Robinson, protects the writer from insanity.

Why write?

It really is narcissism, isn't it? The idea that what we think is important enough to engage people is fascinating. Of course, being a frightening egomaniac, I have no problem at all with this concept. I can't imagine people NOT wanting to hear me.

Someone else pointed out that a writer must be an egoist to deal with the rejection that is part of the writing experience.


Donnetta Lee said...

Hi, Stewart. Hope you have been well. "Self clarification" and "imagined readership." Yes, I believe there must be something to those ideas. And I suppose writers are a bit more ego involved than the average person. But in an off beat, unusual way. The compulsion to express ones self. Hmm. I know a good psychologist! Take care.

Jon said...

"Self clarification." Oh, that's good. Kind of like, "Here I am," even if only to one's self.

And, yes, I LOVE my own writing. It is unimaginable to me that I only get three or four comments on my posts, but I firmly believe that these four copy the stories and nail them on fence posts and tape them to the walls of laundromats next to the ads for double wides and free kittens.

SQT said...


That's how I feel about my blog posts. It's hard not to get indignant over just a few measly comments.

Charles Gramlich said...

It's a question about as difficult to answer as "where did we come from?" I write partially because I want to be read, and because I feel I have something to say. That last may certainly be narcisism. Also because I just enjoy the process. A complex question.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I think there is nothing more conceited than The Writer. Imagine, we write and then expect people to applaud us for what we produce. Even if it is worthy of applause, there is something so gutsy about expecting it.

SQT said...


I think actors have even more conceit. I can't think of a more self-congratulatory industry. How many awards shows do they have now?

Lana Gramlich said...

The egoist/rejection relationship seems very logical, really.
I don't really "write," of course. I don't consider my blog "writing." The painting I do more for extra cash than anything else (although it can be fun, as well.)
My ego's probably too big for its britches, too, however...I can admit that.

Mimi Lenox said...

You've been royally tagged by Mimi Queen of Memes. Have fun!
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