Saturday, September 5, 2015
I am what I write
I wonder if this is as true for you as it is for me.
Those of you who subject your writing to the scrutiny of others will know the anguish that can bubble in the belly as you await their verdict. So much of who I am is invested in my writing. That’s why criticism of it is so hard to take, even when well and truly justified.
Those who don’t experience this ... Well, I wonder how they manage it? Is writing a different kind of experience for them? Is it more of a business venture? Just a job? I suspect this applies much more widely than just to writing. There are those who invest themselves, heart and soul, into what they do, and those who approach the job in a more detached way: it’s just a task to be completed. When we do experience this intense involvement with our work, we know we have at last found something in which our emotional and spiritual energy is heavily invested. We are ‘going with the flow’. We can no longer separate what we do from who we are. I suppose this is what we mean when we differentiate between a job and a vocation. We are called from within, though, rather than from without. Through our work we project ourselves into the world. Ourselves.
I recently had one of my manuscripts assessed, and the assessor clearly liked my writing style. She had some very insightful suggestions to make about the structure and content. I didn’t mind her finding fault with those aspects of the manuscript, but I know that if she had criticised the words I used I would have felt considerable pain. I realised then how heavily invested I am in the words I write. So much more so than in the plot or the structure. Of course I realise objectively that these other things are important. I want to get them right. But they are not so much a part of me as the actual words I use.
It is becoming clear to me that this is simply non-negotiable. Of course I will use the wrong word here and there and build a clunky sentence. Of course some passages of my books are better written than others. But I will not—cannot—change the fundamental way that I use words and construct sentences and images. I won’t do that for any editor, any publisher, or any potential reader. I can no more do that than I can cease to be who I am.