January 30, 2010

Life as a Preparation for Writing

Justin Katz

The non-political aspect of this advice from Mark Steyn is well worth heeding by anybody with an interest in writing:

Whenever aspiring writers ask me for advice, I usually tell 'em this:

Don't just write there, do something. Learn how to shingle a roof, or tap-dance, or raise sled dogs. Because if you don't do anything, you wind up like Obama and Fineman — men for whom words are props and codes and metaphors but no longer expressive of anything real.

Of course the politicized insight is worth considering, too.

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Nice find. I'll have to add NRO to my Firefox Morning Coffee so I don't miss these jewels.

Steyn is often described as a humorist. But as shown by Twain and Rogers, Chaplin and Marx (no, not that one), humorists seem to have exceptionally sharp insight into the human condition.

Posted by: BobN at January 31, 2010 9:10 AM

Write what you know.

Posted by: michael at January 31, 2010 9:45 AM

Yes, write what you know. But what about the writer? What does the writer know? Writing maybe? There is a story about all the young Americans that followed Ernest Hemingway to Paris. While they sought out the cafes on the Montparnesse for the experience, Hemingway stayed in his room and wrote. Justin, don't listen to this baffoon. You can when you stay away from the political - really write.

Posted by: David S at January 31, 2010 7:16 PM

What did Hemingway do with the other parts of his life, when he wasn't writing in Paris?

It seems I remember all kinds of stories.

Posted by: BobN at January 31, 2010 8:40 PM

Yes, BobN, but he then was a celebrity writer- really not so good. But my major objection to the Mark Steyn quote is twofold- first -why not suggest shingle 100 roofs- to really learn it and all its pratfalls. Or tap dance not one lesson but many, maybe with an instructor you end up wanting to kill. Or raise sled dogs- wha? Thats got to be a long endeavor.. This Mark Steyn is pretty vapid. There are too many so called writers that have a sit down with Oprah because they have done one thing and then wrote about it. The second objection is that Steyn's suggestion is raised only to attack Obama. So how is he using his words?

Posted by: David S at February 1, 2010 6:42 PM

David, that's an interesting observation. What others of Steyn's writings have you read?

It seems you didn't even read the quoted lines much less the entire linked article. Your post implies that Steyn said "do one roof" or"take one lesson", when he actually wrote "Learn how...". I'll agree that dilettantes are vapid, but what makes you believe Steyn is one?

Posted by: BobN at February 1, 2010 9:57 PM

This is simplyl age old writing wisdom. Live life fully, then write about it. Imagining how it feels fo run with the bulls versus actually doing it are two completely different experiences.

Might have to draw the line if you arw writing a murder mystery.

Posted by: michael at February 2, 2010 8:11 AM
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