Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why Do You Talk About Writing?

Scott's post yesterday got me thinking about what we talk about as writers, and why. I then started thinking about other aspects of my life and what I talk about with people. Do we as humans feel a certain need to connect to others with our same interests? Would writing a novel and never sharing it be a completely different experience internally than writing the novel, talking about the novel all the time, and then sharing it?

Perhaps these are silly questions, but I like to ask them anyway. Mostly, I see a need within people to gain approval for what they do and how they do it, and what's interesting about this is that while I see this more and more in others' behavior, I see that need diminishing within myself. Thank heavens.

I've grown up needing validation for everything.


It's exhausting.

So I've been on this sort of streak to gain more balance and approval within myself rather than seeking it elsewhere. A blog is an interesting thing because we put our thoughts out there and then wait for comments to come in. We want to know we are being heard - or at least I think most of us do. Some people I know just blog without a care whether anyone reads it or not. I have one of those blogs. It's called my journal and nobody can read it but me. I don't seem to write in it very often, and I think that might say something about me that I don't want to reflect too deeply upon at the moment because it probably contradicts everything I'm striving for right now.

So I'm just throwing out some thoughts today about why we talk about what we do and what we expect in return. I know that as I get more books published, the less interested I am in reading the reviews. It's not that I don't care about people caring enough about my work to write a review (even if they hated the book); it's that I'm getting to a place where my writing has less to do with other people and more about refining a craft that's becoming more and more private by the day. That's where I've always striven to be, but getting into the publishing world has really twisted me around and upside down.

So why do you talk about writing? I'm interested to know! Do you talk about it to connect? Compare? Just get it out there? Because people ask and you feel they want to know?


  1. I'm definitely not as far along as you in my writing path. I do still seek validation from other ... even though as I write that I know that the only real validation that will satisfy me is from within. I don't have that yet.

    I like to talk to other writers, about my work and writing in general, because I always learn something. Plus, other writers are the only ones who understand what it's like to be a writer. Sometimes I start to feel I'm a little, or a lot, crazy and talking to other writers sets me back on track.

    You asked "Would writing a novel and never sharing it be a completely different experience internally ...?" I say yes because I've done that. In some ways, I wish I'd done that with my published novel. Not that I've had bad reviews to make me lose confidence in my work, but somehow that happened anyway. I'm now trying to learn how to retain confidence while sharing.

    Anyway ... it's obvious I like to talk about writing by the length of my comment. :-)

  2. A lot of the reason I write about writing is as an excuse to write about myself. I have a huge but fragile ego, you know. So I assume that anything fascinating to me is fascinating to others. I am always shocked when I'm wrong about that.

    I also write about writing because I'm smartest when I'm writing; my thoughts are more organized when I can see them writ down and if I'm figuring out a particular craft issue, it's a huge help to try to talk about it. Things gain clarity when I run them through the prose machine.

    I like to read about writing because writing fascinates me and I'm thirsty for every scrap of an idea out there that might help me improve as a writer.

  3. I prefer talking about writing with other writers. My friends and family ask me questions a lot but they always seem over impressed by thw whole idea. I like the support but I'd rather hear the opinions of other people who have experienced writing themselves.

    So I guess I talk about writing for the connection. I like to know that other people are experiencing the same thing. In their own way of course, but they have many of the same strugles and that's comforting to me.

    Though that doesn't mean I'm not looking for some level of aproval as well. It would be nice if I didn't need to feel like my work was aknowledged by and worth something to other people but I'm only human. If that day ever comes it is a long way away.

  4. I think part of ii is to find commonality. It feels so good building those relationships on common ground. It bonds us to others. That's a pretty strong reason.

    I wouldn't doubt that it could be a combination of all of those things though.

  5. I actually don't talk about my writing that much. I dread it when people ask how my book is going, even though I know they're only asking because they care.

    I do blog about writing, but rarely in a way that's about how my own writing is going. I've just suffered too much in the company of other writers who talked about their projects until everyone else was falling asleep. I assume most people just aren't interested, and won't talk about it unless they ask.

  6. It's all about helping myself process and maybe connecting with others in the process.

    I actually find writing talk to be a snooze overall.

  7. I've grown up needing validation for everything.


    It's exhausting.

    True that. Sometimes I think that's why we writers write, in an attempt to get a positive reaction from others. At least, I know I do sometimes.

  8. "I actually find writing talk to be a snooze overall."

    A lot of blog/fb posts about wordcounts or reviews of published books or how revisions give the writer a melting brain don't interest me at all, but I'm always interested in talk about the craft. Specifics about what's happening on the page are always worth reading.

  9. I write about writing because I believe writing is a fascinating journey of discovery. When I write I discover something or I understand it better. I find new insights. I also write to develop new ideas. Connecting with others is a rewarding experience because people who are not writers have little understanding about this journey. When I connect with people who belong to the "writing tribe" I feel reassured.

  10. Those aren't silly questions. This is a silly question:

    If grapes tasted like chicken, would grape seeds taste like eggs?

    Now, moving on...

    I talk about writing to learn through the experiences of others, and to help others learn through my experiences.

    I also talk about writing to get around the loneliness of the craft. My wife is a good reader, but she doesn't understand the creative side of writing, or the technical side. She only knows how to enjoy the finished product. But it's fun (and necessary) to vent, to commiserate, to cheer with others as I hit my milestones and roadblocks.

  11. A lot of blog/fb posts about wordcounts or reviews of published books or how revisions give the writer a melting brain don't interest me at all

    I second that.

  12. In my life, there is only my story. I write as much as I can everyday and curse everything that interferes (such as right now, I need to go downstairs and eat something, let alone things such as doing laundry, pickup the mail, grocery shopping, taking a bath before going grocery shopping, etc.).

    When my friends and family see me coming, their expectation is that I will talk, talk, talk about my story. I cannot resist telling them about my latest greatest scene idea (such as when the Dragon sees the women, who have been frolicking in the water, come up onto the beach, water running down their sleek bodies in rivulets. The protagonist accuses him of salivating. The Dragon shakes his head to deny the allegation then opens his mouth to speak a denial. A huge glob of spittle drips from his jaws and makes a gooey splat in the sand.)

    When I meet with other new writers, I feel as if I am on a different plane of existence, or even in a different parallel universe. I am not like them. Then when I meet established, successful, published writers, I do not fit in with them either. I feel alone. All I have is my story.

  13. Rick: Even so, I still write those wordcount/revision posts on my own blog. For a while it was important to me to keep a record of my progress for each book, and the blog was convenient. Nowadays I don't really care about recording stuff like that (though privately I obsess about wordcount). I also used to save all my drafts and revisions, but now I recycle them.

    I first started to blog about writing because writing is a lonely pursuit. For a while I thought I had Something To Say About Writing, but now I have more questions than answers, questions nobody can answer but me, and then only provisionally. What keeps me blogging now is that I was exceedingly fortunate to have met Davin Malasarn and Michelle Davidson Argyle, and we have a lot of fun on this blog. I've also met a lot of other fabulous people and for someone who's not normally social at all (because despite my planet-sized ego I am actually very shy), it's been really cool.

  14. I talk about my writing more with people that I have met through blogging than I do with people I see everyday. I talk about it with my husband and close family, but other than that I generally try not to. I am not published and I get tired of the same questions and words that seem to insult my writing. I am sure people do not intend their words to be insulting, but they hurt just the same. I get tired of hearing, "so you are still NOT published?" or " Are you still trying to be a writer?
    That one really gets to me.

    I am sure that validation is part of why we enjoy talking about our writing, but I like talking to people I have met through blogging because they offer helpful tips and encouraging words when I feel like giving up.

  15. I'm a junkie, that's why. A true blue literary junkie.

    Note for Lester D. Crawford - did you know that Steve Jobs wanted to adjust his diet to fruit only because he thought it would make him only need to bathe once a week?

    Talk about preoccupied! O_o

  16. Before I started my blog I rarely talked about my writing. Offline that is still the case. What is there to talk about? I just get on with it. When I decided to publish my books I realised that I needed a long-term plan. I know some authors record every step along the way as they write but that’s not me. (I finished my last novel in January and before my wife was handed it to read all she knew about it was that it was called Left and was about a daughter going through her father’s things after his death. And that was it. My daughter I learned later didn’t even know the title; I must have assumed because I told my wife they both knew.) If I wasn’t going to give a blow by blow account of my current project I reckoned I’d need to find something to write about that I could sustain for year after year. But even there I write far more about poetry than I do about prose.

    I talk about writing online as a way of attracting potential readers. I mention my books in passing if they’re relevant but I’m not into the hard sell; it doesn’t work unless your goal is to annoy people. I’ve spent so long alone as a writer that I’ve developed self-sufficiency. I’ve written enough to prove to myself that my methods work for me and don’t need anyone to come along and pat me on the back. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have liked to have been patted on the back twenty years ago and so I do look for ways to encourage less experienced writers I run across online. It’s a good way to make friends but that’s not why I do it; if I had an ulterior motive people would soon sniff that out. I just remember what it was like not knowing what I was doing and there being no one to ask. I don’t expect anything in return – I’d hate for someone to feel obliged to buy one of my books or something because I took an hour to write a personal e-mail – but a thank you never hurts.

    I do benefit I some ways from the effort I put in. Never talking to anyone has meant that I’ve never articulated what it is that I do or how I feel about writing. It’s not changed how I work but there is something nice about being able to reduce what I do to a few convenient sound bites: it puts it in perspective. My favourite (although it’s not original) is: Say what you have to say and get off the page. It’s what I’ve always done but I’ve never put it into words until recently. And now I’ve said what I had to say I’m going.

  17. Michelle, This is the first quiet moment I've had today, and I come and check the blog to find out that you posted on exactly what my brain has been fixated on all day. I had breakfast this morning with a wonderful woman who just wanted to talk about writing. Her writing. Her writing experiences. I had a blast, but the rest of the day, I kept thinking about why it is so important for us to talk about our writing. I think you're right in that it is about validation in many ways. But in this case, it's a weird sort of shallow validation. It's more like a "checking in," like one is saying, "Hey, I'm going about this this way, that's all right isn't it?" And then they hear someone say, "Sure, that's okay. Keep going! Go, go, go!" and then they can continue to work on their story. I guess it's about insecurity in one sense, but it doesn't feel too serious to me. It's more like when you run a marathon and you glance up every once in a while to make sure you're going in the same direction as everyone else. You're not necessarily trying to beat everyone else, you might even just be doing it for yourself, but you check in to make sure you're not running west while everyone else is running north. Anyway, that was the conclusion I came up with tonight on the bus. And I've run 0 marathons in my life.

  18. The only time I talk about writing in on the blogs or through email, which I consider "work". If I were a doctor working at a hospital, what would kind of conversations would I be having, certainly not the difference between a 3-act or 5-act structure.
    In my real life, away from the computer, there is no talk of writing at all. It's always about real life.

    So I think it's just a matter of where you are when you talk about it.

    And is being on the blog or email actually "talking" about it? Or is it because that is "where" we talk about it. If we were with our writing friends from the blogs in Kansas City, for example, would we talk about writing or would we talk about our kids, friends, significant others?

  19. I talk to share and listen to other writing stories to share.

  20. I love talking about writing because I love writing. ;) And if there's any single thing I love more than writing, it's talking about things I love! What a fantastic world I live in where this is possible. I don't often share much of my writerly thoughts, or my writing work and process with others in person unless we have established that we are both very interested in writing. Online, I get to seek those types of people out and we can create a communication space where experiences are shared and assurances and commiserations are given! That's a huge deal.

    Blogging and social media CAN BE just squawking into the wind and pleading for validation, but we're human. We need that. And we often make awesome friends in the meantime. ;)


  21. Um, I kind of realized a few days ago that I never answered anyone here. My bad. Lame. I'm sorry. I did read all of the comments with great interest, so thanks to everyone who came by!


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