How can you tell good writing?

December 31st, 2010

 There is a sprinkling of snow on the ground here in Nebraska.  When I endeavor to do something, I like to succeed.  If, for no other reason, than that I decided to do it.  I want to succeed as an MFA Creative Writing instructor because I like the students, their work is good  and it seems a thing worth doing.  All the other professors are brilliant and it seems like they swim along through their paperwork and duties like swans.  I beat my wings, but I’ll fly pretty soon.  Tonight is the New Year’s Eve dance.  We’ll dance a little, watch the new year swing into place and tomorrow my lecture is at 9:30, the likelihood of anyone wishing to attend seems about 11 to 1 against, but who knows? maybe they will think I have something to say.  I hope they’re right. 

 Literature—what is it?  Forget literature for a minute. 

 Good writing.  What is it?  It’s when you can’t stop thinking about the story, the writing hangs with you, sticks in your hair, it’s when you wonder why you didn’t write that, it’s when you wish you had written it, it’s when you dream about the story, the characters, the story gets under your skin, the way I dreamed about The Lover the way I dreamed about Cat’s Eye and One Big Self and “Bigfoot Stole my Wife.” 

 That’s what it’s all about, getting to write, to dream, to live life upside down and inside out inside a story and working language hard, not to be clever but to tell a story that shakes people so that they want to read it again and again.  That’s why I ask you, I ask you now, good writing has blood in it, blood, sweat, tears, do you know what I mean?

 So, here’s to great writing in 2011… that’s what I want to do… to focus on in 2011—writing well.. more than anything else.  Getting up early, exercising, and writing. 

 From The Lover,

“Now evening comes. He tells me I’ll remember this afternoon all my life, even when I’ve forgotten his face and name. I wonder if I’ll remember the house. He says, take a good look at it. I do. I say it’s like everywhere else. He says yes, yes, it’s always the same.

I can still see the face, and I do remember the name. I see the whitewashed walls still, the canvas blind between us and the oven outside, the other door, arched, leading to the other room and to an open garden-the plants are dead from the heat-surrounded by blue balustrades like those at the big villa in Sadec with its tiers of terraces overlooking the Mekong.”

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Published in: on December 31, 2010 at 1:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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