Friday, October 27, 2006

Something random

This morning I passed time at work listening to the Guardian's podcast "Writing by Numbers" - a roundtable discussion about the creative writing industry. One panelist could have spoken for the entire hour as far as I was concerned. Among the many observations made by Russell Celyn Jones one was that CW classes are really only a new form of studying literature. Such classes, he said, can aid a writer only in their own, very personal search.
The [students] who come saying "I am a writer" and I just want to take a course ... are usually the ones who don't write very well. The students who come with a sense of curiosity about what they could find are usually the best ones ... because there's something random about the act of writing, and there's something random about the act of reading. When students say: "Tell me what books I have to read and tell me what skills I need and that's grand, right- it's all finished" then that's when I lose my temper. Well, not my temper, but I say you want the life of a writer but you don't want to do the work of a writer. The work of a writer is the randomness. It's about reading things you don't normally find in the obvious places. It's a very personal search. [...] It's a long process of learning ... what you need to write about and what it is the reader wants to read.
This explains why I felt annoyance at the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list that I saw the day before, and not just because Saturday is on it and the usual infuriating wrongheadedness (three Handkes yet not Repetition or Across). It was the resistance to randomness; as if all one has to do is read the 1001 and you're done. What I love about the blogosphere is the possibility of discovering a writer who might help me in the search. It's why I don't waddle sheep-like for the Booker shortlist or the 3 for 2 stalls or "confess" that I've never read Hardy or Tolstoy. Forget them. Follow your nose.

1 comment:

  1. 1001 Books You Must Die Before You Read seems more appealing. The dreadful task to be one of us-the truly educated.



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