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A Writer's Cancer

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

We often equate talented writers as well read evidenced by thousands of books to a point where recall is instant, and wittily spouts the author’s dossier and supported authorities like an episode of Allen Trebek’s television show, Jeopardy. The standing debate whether writers who read other author’s work equates a self-infliction of invisible cancer or is the cornerstone which defines a seasoned writer?

Some may argue the reading of other acclaimed authors is compare with the Socratic method application similar to the discipline used in case law studies. This approach used to expose the apprentice to a slew of scenario he would readily be able to solve, and the architecture of this process is designed to refine the writer. While others will argue, the latter is a red herring argument to hide the underlining issue. The reading of authors’ material is the lobotomy of writer's creative spirit to a point where it’s like cancer.

Personally, I treat this argument like a contagious disease. If you are a reader, then be a reader and if you are a writer then be a writer. To fuse the two may raise arguments which go to the heart of creative authenticity; is it yours? The propagation doesn’t equate because you’re a writer you shouldn’t read books which interest you but sends up red flags if your genre and the admired authors are one in the same. Also, are the influences over the writer subjective or objective? Objective equates leisure reading while subjective read is to hone a writer’s skills. I’m of the belief it would be an injustice to a writer’s creative instincts to read books by authors of similar genres. But if it’s to enhance his writing skills there are thousands of writer’s digests and manuals along with magazines that are available to fine tune a writer’s craft.

In Conclusion, it is bad enough we are influenced by the constant bombardment of the things which impact our everyday lives and affect us subliminally, but quite often they go unnoticed. These effects may be below the threshold of consciousness. A writer's creative originality compound by his devotion to literature erodes his creativity where it is impossible to determine if what he has written is, in fact, his own or a subconscious regurgitation of someone else’s work he’d read sometime past, but forgotten. This unconscious act can also breed plagiarism which in my opinion is the kamikaze of any writer’s credibility.


message 2: by Conor (new)

Conor | 2 comments Writing, like life, if always going to be a messy endeavour.

There are some well-known authors who don't read any fiction while they're working on their own projects, fearing some kind of osmotic contamination, but there are plenty for whom reading is a vital part of their own creativity and inspiration, to use some hackneyed but I think reasonable terms.

I appreciate your point of view, but I think an under-appreciated quality of many great writers is their humility -- their willingness to acknowledge their place in a literary tradition (or a convergence of traditions, distinct though they might be). And there doesn't have to be anything anti-creative or original in that kind of acknowledgement. It feels like a shame for any would-be writer to shut themselves off from the pleasures and insights that reading great fiction provides.

It's hard, if not impossible to learn how to write from magazines and how-to-write books alone. And perhaps all writers have to go through an initial phase of imitation before they're able to find their own feet. From memory both. Stephen King and Ray Bradbury have said something along those lines.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Conor, you had me until you quoted Stephen King and Ray Bradbury. I probably would have cited the actual quote instead of their names. Moreover, creativity is a formula cultivated by our experiences and sometimes vicariousness.


message 4: by Conor (new)

Conor | 2 comments Not a fan of King and Bradbury? They have their limitations, admittedly, and can be fairly inconsistent (King especially), but I've got a lot of respect for them and their dedication to storytelling. Cool dudes.

Pretty sure King writes about the necessity of imitation in 'On Writing', and Bradbury in 'Zen and the Art of Writing'. I should double-check though.

Do you believe direct experience is more valuable for a writer than vicarious experience through books? It's something I've thought about a lot in recent years, and I can't help but feel so much emphasis is put on the importance of the former. It's an interesting question though, because if you live a life brimming with experience and adventure, you tend to lose the time and focus necessary to write.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

"live a life brimming with experience and adventure; you tend to lose the time and focus necessary to write. " Under contrary my friend. The experiences are the very components needed to breed creativity. Vicarious experiences don't necessarily mean a repertoire of characterizations from books but an adaptation of a peculiar character. Take, for example, Clifford Irving portrayal of Howard Hughes, and for the sake of argument it was exactly the wayLasse Hallström wrote in his screenplay. Or better yet, an actor preparing for a character role, a vicarious experience where as a writer you have full control. Finding the time to write, well, have the tools of the trade always handy and when the thought hits you jot it down or record it. Creativity comes twice, in the early mornings and at the moment the body is fatigued and staying awake struggles with sleep. Haha


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