Toni Morrison wrote:
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Do you agree with me that we are writers because at some point in our lives we read books and fell in love with the written word? Most of us were readers first before we became writers. We all write for one reason or another. We write for pleasure, we write for money, we write because we cannot do anything else, we write because that’s the thing we love to do most. Or maybe we ran out of books we liked to read and therefore took to writing them as Toni Morrison advised us to.
Whatever the origins of your writing career, you probably write first of all to please yourself, at least I do. When we first moved to Canada and I was contemplating to teach or do something else, one of my friends suggested that I write Harlequin novels. I got so excited. I liked the idea of becoming a full time writer as opposed to writing occasionally, only when I had the time. I have read a few Harlequins, and I thought it would be an easy thing to do. I sat at my desk thinking that within a few months I would be able to produce a book. What I didn’t know was that writing ‘for a market’ which I wasn’t fond of reading would bring me pain and disappointment and despair. After a couple of tries I quit and totally abandoned the idea of becoming a Harlequin writer.
One of the many pieces of advice that my creative writing instructor had given me years ago was to always remember that my readers were somewhat smarter than me, even though they read what I liked to read.
The creative process is so mysterious, so unknown and so distinct to each writer. What works for other writers might not work for me or you. Even at different stages in their development and career writers have different problems to solve, and the way they tackle these problems is unique and exclusive to them also. My writing instructor used to say that almost all writers as they progress in their career suffer from Duck’s Disease. Here’s how he told the story:
A film director once told a writer that despite having a quality script in his hand, he didn’t have a film. He was unable though to point to any gap in the writing. The script was complete but he (the director) didn’t think people would want to go see it. “It just doesn’t taste right in the mouth. I want something more but I can’t tell you what it is.”
“A duck,” said another director challenged to explain what was lacking in an apparently fully motivated script, “is an animal with serious height shortfall. Its ass is too close to the ground. Everyone knows it except the duck. Nobody knows why it is so. No one can do anything about it except the duck, who can walk on tiptoe or get elevator webs.”