Hemingway once said, “You should never talk about writing.” I am, of course, paraphrasing–Hemingway said something alike to that; but I was not fortunate enough to be alive in the twentieth century. Had I been…well, let’s not consider the outcome, shall we?
I believe his words…on some level, some level deep beneath all these cobwebs and dust piles in my brain–can we get a janitor out here? I paid the damn fee, man; you think someone would tidy up.
On another level; however, methinks Hemingway was reserved–wait, that’s a lie; he wrote about anything he did, from fishing to drinking. He chose to refrain from conversations about writing because, for him, it was taboo, not the all-the-rules-of-those-teeny-tiny-writing-groups taboo…the oh-shit-my-work-is-going-to-be-ruined-if-I-spill-the-smallest-word taboo.
That taboo. The one I used to suffer from.
When you’re sitting in a room alone, with but a laptop or a word processor or–if you’re going Stone Age–a typewriter it is too easy to start questioning all of it: the word count, the story, the characters, the size of the documents, page count, the writing itself! You go deranged–quit the writing and establish a smoothie stand in the middle of the Ozarks. Maybe a tad extreme…
Questioning. You question it. The writing. The writing questions you–crap, I screwed it up.
Get this: it is not like talking sports results. I cannot go into a bar–for one reason I am seventeen–and engage the bartender in lively conversation, like, say, “I loved how the game went last night. It was so wickedly cool when So-and-so knocked the thing into that bigger thing.” Put a spin of writing on it: “Loved how the words came rolling out of my head last night…you know, I was doubting myself…but now I see…”
All is well and good if you have a person to whom you can confess your writing aspirations and failures–they must be great listeners; but the reason most writers are not too keen on sharing their favorite activity of the day is because of fear: they are frightened that any spoken word will shatter their fragile story and its routine.
The Fragility Taboo.
Just so you know, I am totally copyrighting that. You heard it here first, from me…here…in a blog…Yeah. Let’s move on to other things, shall we?
You cannot completely cure a writer of the Fragility Taboo. It’s like drinking–take away a pint for a week, in this case let the writer voice his doubts and concerns, and they will be slobbering after a cup and an area of silence. And do not try to cure them…they won’t appreciate it.
All a bystander can do is watch them think: day in and day out thought probing within themselves. If, at any point, they feel up to speaking, listen, and listen well, because they trust you enough to talk about that which makes them exceedingly nervous.
But what am I–a doctor or a writer?