Monday, September 27, 2010

Never Let Me Go and Let Me Go

I've raved before about the beautiful and heartbreaking novel, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This weekend I cautiously watched the movie adaptation, hoping at the very least that it wouldn't ruin my impression of the book. My hat is off to Director Mark Romanek and screenplay writer Alex Garland for staying true to the book's vision and not getting all Hollywood (okay, except perhaps for the last 10 seconds, but I'm willing to overlook that). Ishiguro's brilliance was showcased on this movie, and I'd recommend both the book and the movie to lovers of literary fiction (with a pinch of sci-fi).

This weekend I also spent some time lunching with a relative stranger who asked to talk to me regarding her desire to start writing again. This person, we'll call her Kangacon Spartacus, has apparently been wanting to write since elementary school but somehow got convinced to repress that urge because it might not pay the bills. Thankfully, it sounds like she's finally going to go for it, and face her fears. So, here's to Kangacon for letting herself go and doing what she wants to do!

Question: What are your fears as a writer, and how do you overcome them?

My answer: I'm scared of people knowing where I'm vulnerable. I overcome it by ignoring my fear long enough to send my work out into the world and then worry about the consequences later.


  1. I'm afraid of not being taken seriously.

  2. I'm afraid of my work having a negative impact on people. Words are powerful and I write dark stuff. It's more than a little intimidating.

  3. p.s. Kangacon Spartacus, if you're a reader of this blog, I'm proud of you, and I wish you the best in the face of further challenges and waves of doubt.

  4. My fear: That Simon Cowell will say I suck and I believe him.

  5. Davin, I've wanted to read the book and also see the movie for awhile now. Perhaps it will be one I put on my new Kindle if it ever gets here... :)

    I'm afraid of people not taking me seriously and laughing at my attempts to write serious things. Actually, that has happened before and that's why it's a real fear. I always expect it to keep happening and on larger scales. So far that hasn't been the case. =

  6. I fear that everyone else but me will see I don't have what it takes.

  7. I’m afraid I won’t measure up to some undetermined standard set by faceless people who are supposed to be the final word on what’s Good Writing. Oh, yeah, then there’s that vulnerability thing...

    I don’t know that I overcome the fear, but I’ve learned to ignore it long enough to put something out there and sweat it out later.

  8. I was laughed at for my writing (probably quite deservedly) a couple of times when I was young, and didn't write a word for years because of fear of being laughed at some more.

    Perhaps I grew a thicker skin as I got older... perhaps it was the encouragement of friends... perhaps it was the constant criticism from my teenagers that hardened me. But I suddenly realized I don't care what anyone thinks any more. It's very freeing. I hope Kangacon will cross that barrier.

  9. Ri,ck

    Anne, for what it's worth, I take you seriously. It's great to see someone as talented as you working in a genre that you love and creating great stories within it.

    Nevets, As you know, that's a fear of mine too. I don't really know what the answer is. I've been comforted by the fact that a few other reads have said that there is a point to writing dark material.

    Clarissa, Simon is gone now. Welcome a new panel of judges, some of which have reputations of diva-ship that just aren't true.

    Michelle, I do recommend it. I'm glad to hear your fears (and people's responses) are not actually growing for the worst! I hope this writing experience, yours and mine and everyone's, tends to get easier over time.

    Yat-Yee, wow, yes, I can imagine a lot of writers feel that way. I've heard it before. I guess in the end we will never know for sure if the whole world is conspiring against us, but we have to listen to the opinions of people we trust, including ourselves.

    jbchicoine, the "machine" used to intimidate me more than it does now. I think as I'm gaining experience I'm trusting in myself more and caring less about outside opinions. I also ignore the fear!

    Jane, thanks for sharing that. I'm sorry people laughed at you, but I'm so glad to see you pushing through that!

  10. When it came to news reporting, my fear was of not getting the facts straight (and of ticking off my editor, of course). When it came to fiction, what kept me from pursuing it for years was the fear that I had nothing to say that hadn't been said before (and better) by others.

    Finally, I told that voice to shut up and go away, and I started writing. I'm not published as a fiction writer yet, but I have completed a novel, so that's progress.

  11. For me, it's always been fear of exposure. Of people knowing my real self. Every time I finish a book, I start to have those classic naked-at-a-party dreams. I think that's why, for years, I wrote about dingbat fashionistas who were as far from my real self as I could get.

  12. My fear is that I'll find out in some humiliating way that all my beautiful writing is just dumb and not literature at all. I'll turn out to be totally clueless about writing and to have been spouting egotistical nonsense in public for years, and then be made to see the truth of it.

  13. It's probably natural, but I also find it sad how many writers are apparently have fears that boil down to being afraid that their talent is an illusion.

    I haven't read much from most of you. Anne (PW), I've only read a little bit, but I don't know how anyone could not take your writing seriously. Scott, from the snippets I've seen, your prose is well crafted and I for one think it (as a sample) is more beautiful than what you posted from Freedom (as a sample).

    Believe in yourselves, and shake off the ghosts of jerks from your past! :)

    Okay, there's my motivational speech for today. Ironically, I suck at that. hahaha

  14. I'm afraid that, like Scott, I'll discover in some humiliating way that not my writings but the ideas behind them are inconsequential, juvenile, or not worth the time it took to put them to paper.

    I overcome that fear by writing more, by talking and sharing and diving into the community of writers for insight and support.

    Sometimes I just plain ignore those fears and they magically lessen.

  15. Davin, I think we've probably talked about this before, or maybe I blogged about it, but my fear biggest fear is the shocked, horrified, condemning reaction I would get should anyone in my husband's conservative family read something I've written. I describe my novel-in-progress as being about the kind of women writer/activist Asra Nomani calls the "bad girls of Islam" and of course she means this as the ones fighting for their rights, speaking up--the feminists. But some of my in-laws would take that "bad" more literally.

    I was just talking about this with another friend this weekend. Have you read "Brick Lane" by Monica Ali? At the end, she addresses the controversy surrounding the film and says in a sense, no harm had been done by it. But then she mentions some young Muslim women who approached her at book signings and said they were afraid of what their families would think, and how she responded:

    "'Keep writing,' I told them blithely. 'Find your voice and use it. Be brave.' I'd tell them the same thing today, but I wouldn't be so blithe about it, and maybe today, after all that's happened, they wouldn't even ask."

    I think of those girls and then think, God, grow up, Jennifer. Here I am, a lawyer for God's sake. A Seven Sisters' graduate. If I can't speak my truth, how will they?

  16. I’m not a quick writer, not as far as novels go (they take me years), and so I know when I take on a project that I’ll have to live with it for a long time. My fear is that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew but that I won’t be able to let go of it and end up wasting years where I could’ve worked on other projects. Just because you’ve written one novel doesn’t mean you can write two; every book brings its own unique problems. How I cope is by remembering that each novel I’ve written has been a struggle and I’ve always hit a point during the writing where I’ve believed that I was kidding myself thinking I could write anything but I’ve always managed to get my second wind. I’m now onto my fifth book which until a few weeks ago was going nowhere and has actually been the hardest yet but I can now see the finish line. It’s not the book I set out to write and, looking back, that’s where my problem lay, trying to force the material in a generation it didn’t want to go; hindsight is a wonderful thing.

  17. I'm afraid I'll be successful enough to be forced to write with deadlines, but not enough to quit my day job.

  18. * Jennifer, your fears are in a whole other league. Congratulations and stay brave.*

    I have fears for all occasions:

    (1) Of failure and public humiliation - my books will suck, everyone will recognize it and point and laugh

    (2) Of failure and private despair - my books will suck, and from fear of (1) I will never share them, and will eventually stop writing and my soul with wither up and die and I'll become a bitter old woman who always wished I had been braver

    (3) Of failure and public acclaim - my books will suck, but for some reason a large number of people will fail to notice this, and I'll become rich and full of myself and never work to improve my writing because I won't need to bother any more.

    Yeah, whatever the occasion, I've got it covered so I can fret over it.

  19. And I really, really want to see this movie!

  20. I'm afraid that I did not write it well. And certainly my initial editing rounds, even my later ones, seem to confirm that.

  21. I absolutely loved the book Never Let me Go and didn’t even know there was a movie on it. Will definitely try to watch it.

    My fears as a writer: that my work won’t resonate or provoke any reaction in people.

  22. Like your lunch partner, I fear writing won't pay the bills. And I fear what I write will be yesterdays news, so to speak, so no one will be interested. I'm going to be looking for Never Let Me Go now. Literary with a sparkle of sci-fi--sounds intriguing!

  23. I, too, rave and rave about Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never let me go." I had no idea that had been turned into a movie--thanks so much for that info. In case you didn't know, he also has a collection of short stories/novellas called "Nocturnes" (which I checked out from a library, and subsequently lost).

  24. I guess the movie isn't getting much publicity if Ishiguro lovers aren't hearing about it! Go find it, people!

  25. Chidelia, I read some of the nocturnes. I liked them, but I didn't love them. Thanks for bringing them up!

  26. I have the same fear about what I share on my blog... the vulnerable thing. The post I'm working on today will be about the biggest fear that limits my writing. Funny that I would read this today. :)


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