Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Bit of Discomfort Makes You a Better Writer

Real writers need frustration. They need embarrassment. They need cold, uncomfortable rooms, miles from a mobile signal. There should be an infestation of at least one parasite, a backlog of warnings from the Student Loans Company and just enough coffee for what Don DeLillo calls 'an occasional revelation'.

Do you need a comfortable space to do your writing? Stuff and nonsense says Matt Shoard on The Guardian blog (undoing all the good advice I've been giving to my writing classes about creating a special place in the house to write!).  He waves the example of Dan Brown at us - a cushy lifestyle, a huge mansion, and flaccid prose.

As a creative writing teacher Shoard does sound a bit of a sadist! :
Personally, I like to hold "hungry" creative writing seminars through lunch, far from a vending machine, at the cold end of campus with the heating down. You can almost see Dan Brown leaving and David Foster Wallace taking his place. "I want to smell the breath of a stranger as he speaks my name," wrote one student this week. They're no more prolific, but they're gutsier. Discomfort cures overwriting.
Wondering what I should do with my writing classes now. Should I turn off the aircon and the fans and let them sweat their way to better prose?

5 comments:

Baronhawk said...

I was considering attending the next batch of your writing workshop. Now I am thinking twice about it... ha ha ha ha.

Ee Leen Lee said...

The' flaccid prose' comes after the movie-deals and royalties hahhahah.

Okay, back to the garden shed for me...

Argus Lou said...

Leave cut onions next to them.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Worth a try. At least they can write about their discomfort and then move on to what's really bothering their character's lives -- it's not the faulty air-con, it's that they're living in denial. Their boyfriend has moved on, but they haven't, nor have they done anything to get their writing life back on track...but in desperation they write him out of their system and vow never to let that happen again. They're taking charge of their life! Who needs air-con when you have a writing career? Who needs air-con when you have a life worth writing about...

Good luck, sans air-con

gnute said...

When I think of suffering authors, I think David Foster Wallace. Sharon, have you seen this NYer item? http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2010/03/whats-in-the-david-foster-wallace-archive.html

DFW's books, notes & other ephemera are being preserved. It's amazing, amazing, amazing stuff. INTENSE. Almost painful to see, in fact.