If you have a “passion for writing” and never do it, you don’t have a passion for writing

I signed up for writing-related Meetup.com notifications, and one said this:

Do you have a passion for writing but find it hard to carve out time to engage in the practice of it? It can be hard to find a local writing group convenient for your schedule. If you love to write and would like to be surrounded by others who motivate you, this is the place for you

If “you have a passion for writing,” you don’t need other people around you, any more than if you have a passion for masturbation you need a group wank. You just do it, and masturbation might arguably be the world’s most common leisure activity (among the young at the very least).

IMG_1269For 99% of people, if you “find it hard to carve out time to engage in the practice of [writing],” the solution is simple: redirect time spent on TV and Facebook to writing. If I recall correctly, William Gibson said that he doesn’t write all the time; he’s merely reallocated the time most people spend watching TV to writing. I’m not arguing that would-be writers should never watch TV, but I am arguing that needing extrinsic motivation is, in most circumstances, inferior to having intrinsic motivation.

People also may underestimate how much can be done in small blocks of time. This post, for example, has only taken me a couple of minutes. I haven’t been posting much because I’ve been self-editing a novel and writing proposals. Blogging gets crowded out by those activities. Yet it’s still possible for me to write a short post that says something substantive in about 15 minutes. Cory Doctorow has said in various places that he writes 250 words of fiction every day. A “typical” novel is about 80,000 – 90,000 words. At 250 words per day, you can write a novel in 320 days.

If you have a “passion” for writing, you can express it every day, just like many of you love yourselves every day. You don’t need a group to do it. The need for a group is identical to the need for excuses.

I’m not opposed to writers’ groups in all shapes and forms, and the right group at the right time could in principle provide valuable feedback for the right person (and the right person could give valuable feedback to others). But the raw work should be done alone, and the door opened to others when that work is done.

8 responses

  1. Couldn’t agree more. This is what I have at the top of the sidebar in my blog: On Being a Writer: “If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” author unknown

  2. In principle, I agree with you–writing is ultimately a solitary work, but I would add, indeed emphasize, that writing is a solitary work with a communal or relational end, which is where the analogy to masturbation breaks down. Writing is the art of crafting words, and words of their very nature have the purpose of communicating thought. While I don’t want to suggest that the sole purpose of writing is so that other people will read, this is nonetheless a primary purpose, and certainly one that factors into the desire to write.

    That said, the desire to write should be present in the writer without the audience looking over his shoulder whispering encouragement. The desire to write should also well up from the absence of an audience since, after all, writing differs from oration in the ability in the temporal distance of the audience from the message and in the message’s preservation. But, as you say, the true value of a writer’s group is in feedback–which has to come AFTER the pen has been put to the page.

  3. I value the two writing groups I’m a part of as much for the social aspects as for the benefits to my writing (and believe me, my writing has improved immensely with the help of my Alliance-mates). But I had already been writing for well over a decade before I’d ever considered joining a writing group, and there are no live writing groups in my area for me to participate in, unfortunately. That may or may not be a good thing; I haven’t yet decided. But I think that if you truly have a passion for writing, it doesn’t matter what else you have going on in your life – you will find a way to write, even if it’s only a couple of words or a lousy haiku a day.

    • Writing only for yourself is just masturbation. I embrace extrinsic motivators, because without an audience I would not feel a need to polish my work beyond what already is comprehensible….if just barely so, for me alone.

      • I never said I write only for myself. I desire to be published, but the stuff I wrote that first decade before joining a writing group was barely fit to use as toilet paper. Sure, there were a few gems hidden beneath the mounds of crap, but I’m not sure it’s worth the amount of time it would take to excavate and then polish those gems. If you don’t first practice, how can you ever hope to become proficient enough to find an audience?

  4. Pingback: Journalism, physics and other glamor professions as hobbies | The Story's Story

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