Most artists don’t have anything to say when they start out


Eye_of_sauronIt’s not at all uncommon for the author of some really trite and cliched piece of work to say, in an interview, “This is the story I was born to tell. The characters just really spoke to me, and they would not allow me to rest until I wrote this book.”

Meanwhile I’m sitting there being like…really? This book? The Tolkien clone that I just read?

Personally, I feel like I have the opposite problem. All through my writing career, I’ve worried that I have no stories and nothing to say–that I’m just in this for self-aggrandizement rather than self-expression.

I don’t have any answers here. I certainly believe these authors when they say that the muse was working through them. But I also think that maybe they should’ve held the muse to higher standards. What I’ve noticed is that peoples’ sense of discernment–their ability to notice nuanced things about the world–tends to improve as you become a better writer.

Notice, it’s not that you get better at putting nuanced details and situations into your writing. It’s that you actually get better at seeing them. Writing is the easy part. Mostly people know all the words and all the grammars and junk that they need to write a good story. What’s hard is seeing clearly. And when we try to write, what we’re often doing is training ourselves to see.

So, err, that’s all I’ve got. I don’t know that right now I have anything to say. What I hope is that by working hard and holding myself to high standards, I’ll eventually be able to see something that other people can’t.

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