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blacbird
01-04-2013, 11:29 AM
Always read crappy ones. Crappy writers will at least delude you into thinking you can write better than they can. Great writers? Not a chance.

I made the error of reading an Ursula LeGuin book (Tales of Earthsea) tonight. Never in the entire history of our galaxy can I even fantasize about being able to write that well, never never never. Ever.

If anybody really needs to feel good about what they write, just ask me, and I'll send you some of my stuff.

caw

Kerosene
01-04-2013, 11:42 AM
Or you can take it as a challenge and laugh in death's face!

*Screams at the storm*

slhuang
01-04-2013, 12:05 PM
I'm right there with you, blacbird. My latest nemesis is Octavia Butler (how did I only just discover her this year, FAILURE). The first thing I read by her was Bloodchild, a book of short stories, and I still obsess about how I can never, ever in a million years come up anything close to a single one of them. I don't think I could ever even write a single turn of phrase that would beat her worst turn of phrase. The prose, the ideas . . .

I'm going to go curl up in a corner and lament my lack of talent now.

sunandshadow
01-04-2013, 12:22 PM
By an amusing coincidence, LeGuin and Butler are two of the authors who motivated me to start writing, as I always saw them as examples of the kind of thing I wanted to (and could) do. I guess, everyone has their 99 problems, but a fear that my work wouldn't be good enough was never one of my particular set. I got to worry over not having an instinct for plot or an urge to put words on paper for others to read instead.

mccardey
01-04-2013, 12:59 PM
Bird - :Hug2: I feel the same way about Marilynne Robinson...

onesecondglance
01-04-2013, 01:33 PM
I'm right with you, blacbird... :D

Putputt
01-04-2013, 01:58 PM
I'm right there with you, blacbird. My latest nemesis is Octavia Butler (how did I only just discover her this year, FAILURE). The first thing I read by her was Bloodchild, a book of short stories, and I still obsess about how I can never, ever in a million years come up anything close to a single one of them. I don't think I could ever even write a single turn of phrase that would beat her worst turn of phrase. The prose, the ideas . . .

I'm going to go curl up in a corner and lament my lack of talent now.

Ha, I remember being nicely horrified by Bloodchild. Can't remember what the name of that story was in there, but the one about the mental illness freaked the crap out of me...so much so that I couldn't appreciate her writing! *hides under a blanket at the gruesome memory*

kuwisdelu
01-04-2013, 02:20 PM
You said you'd send some of your stuff, I'll tell you this seriously: I'd rather read your work, than an author by the name of "Ursula LeGuin." I mean, come on, even the name sounds boring.

Wow. I can't really think if a more blatant example of disrespecting your fellow writer than making fun of another writer's name. Check yourself, or you won't last long here, buddy.

RedRose
01-04-2013, 02:54 PM
If you tell yourself that you can't, then you won't.

Ken
01-04-2013, 03:44 PM
... and yet even the greats get torn apart by literary critics. Am sure LeGuin has too. Even that book of hers you've mentioned. Reading a bio on one of my own favorite authors, Dostoyevsky, I was surprised to learn that some of his novels which I adored were lambasted by critics of the era. The writers in question are still great, but maybe it gives blokes like ourselves a chance too. Opinions vary. So if even renowned critics can find fault with masterpieces like Earthsea then maybe when we evaluate the merit of our own work and find it lacking perhaps we've got it wrong too? Perhaps our stuff is really okay and we should leave it up to readers to decide and pass verdict. (Though in my own case I know that's unnecessary beyond any doubt. My stuff rots. No if's and's or but's about it.)

Terie
01-04-2013, 04:39 PM
You said you'd send some of your stuff, I'll tell you this seriously: I'd rather read your work, than an author by the name of "Ursula LeGuin." I mean, come on, even the name sounds boring.

Yeah. How dare parents name their daughter 'Ursula', and then how dare she marry a man whose surname is 'Le Guin', and finally, how dare this woman write under her real name.

Dude, the #1 rule here at Absolute Write is to respect your fellow writers. If you dismiss a highly acclaimed contemporary writer just on the basis of her name, you have a lot to learn about what 'respect' means.

I'd suggest that you go read the Newbie Guide (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=66315) right now.

OhTheHorror
01-04-2013, 04:55 PM
I'd rather read your work, than an author by the name of "Ursula LeGuin." I mean, come on, even the name sounds boring.

Dude ... justhttp://i1277.photobucket.com/albums/y481/jennifer_williams8/sad-no-smiley-emoticon_zps00211d42.gif

kkbe
01-04-2013, 04:58 PM
First of all, hope you read them there stickies, Doggr.

Now, onto you, Blacbird. You wrote your post tongue-in-cheek, right? Because I can't believe you'd actually and actively read crap so you can feel better about your own stuff. It's counterproductive, I think.

You were joking. I know you were.

In my previous life I was an artist. I took a class in sculpture and when I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts, I was drawn to Rodin. I could almost see his fingertips pushing into the clay, feel his nails raking though it, molding it into something magnificent. I wanted to channel some of that into my own art. I saw a painting by Bouguereau, children outside and he painted dirt on the bottoms of their feet, it blew me away, the exquisitness of it, the attention to such a minute detail, the way he lay paint on canvas, such a delicate touch; lovingly, thoughtfully, precise.

To not avail yourself to the best of others seems self-defeating. How can you know what 'great writing' looks like if you never allow yourself to see it?

Flicka
01-04-2013, 05:08 PM
Always read crappy ones. Crappy writers will at least delude you into thinking you can write better than they can. Great writers? Not a chance.

I made the error of reading an Ursula LeGuin book (Tales of Earthsea) tonight. Never in the entire history of our galaxy can I even fantasize about being able to write that well, never never never. Ever.

If anybody really needs to feel good about what they write, just ask me, and I'll send you some of my stuff.

caw

I'm glad I first read those about 30 years ago. It has given me time to adjust to the shock. They were some of my absolute favourite books growing up and made so much other fantasy seem boring.

It's tough being a writer; either you get angry because what you are reading is no good or you get angsty because it is too good. Between a rock and a hard place, us writers!

And, Doggr, if one would need a PhD to understand Earthsea, I don't think I would have enjoyed them at age 9. Come one, at least google before making snotty comments. It saves face.

Phaeal
01-04-2013, 07:25 PM
I have the opposite reaction. Great writing makes me roll all over the floor like a cat who's just gotten a big snort of catnip. Then it gets me back in front of the keyboard, not to rival the great writers but to return to the great game of storytelling itself, doing the best I can do.

Bad writing, on the other hand, just depresses me and sends me scrambling back to the good stuff.

mirandashell
01-04-2013, 07:33 PM
Really bad writing can be quite entertaining though. Like... well, I shouldn't say. But I'm sure we all have books that we've read and made a face like this:

:Wha:

then this:

:rolleyes:

then finished the book just to see if it could possibly get any worse.....



LOL!

But yeah, the good stuff is best. Gives you something to work towards.

Cyia
01-04-2013, 07:34 PM
Just don't read - period. Problem solved.

(no, don't really do that) :D

LBlankenship
01-04-2013, 07:34 PM
I'm with Phael -- good stories get my brain burbling and excited to make more good stories.

Well, as good as I can make them. :)

Sonneillon
01-04-2013, 07:35 PM
I agree with Phaeal - great writing is intimidating but it also makes me want to go roll around in the words. Really good books jog things loose in my brain and send me running for my keyboard... whenever I'm stuck in my writing, I go read something I know is good.

Phaeal
01-04-2013, 07:44 PM
Really bad writing can be quite entertaining though. Like... well, I shouldn't say. But I'm sure we all have books that we've read and made a face like this:

:Wha:

then this:

:rolleyes:

then finished the book just to see if it could possibly get any worse.....

Well, yeah. But really good bad writing is also rare. Most bad writing is just blah.

mirandashell
01-04-2013, 07:47 PM
Well, yeah. But really good bad writing is also rare.

True! And therefore should be treasured!

No, I get what you mean. Most bad writing is meh.

Jamesaritchie
01-04-2013, 07:50 PM
You mention all these writers, and I've never heard of them. I've read a lot of Stephen King, and am in fact reading "Insomnia" currently. I paid $9.99 for the Kindle version. I wouldn't pay two cents for some stuffy word-bag of a writer who pretentiously assumes their readers are going to savour the words they write.

You said you'd send some of your stuff, I'll tell you this seriously: I'd rather read your work, than an author by the name of "Ursula LeGuin." I mean, come on, even the name sounds boring.

In my opinion, writing, that is fiction, is first and foremost entertainment. If the writer can't accomplish that, it doesn't matter how many Ph.D.'s their readers are required to have in order to understand them.

But that's me.:e2shower:

You've never even hear dof these writers, but you judge their worth based on the name they have? Ummm, yeah, that makes sense. If you can find a writer more entertaining than Le Guin, send me the name. That's a writer I want to read.

Really, though. You've never even heard of Ursula K. Le Guin? How long did that coma last, anyway?

Jamesaritchie
01-04-2013, 07:52 PM
I really don't find very much bad published writing. I find writing I love, writing I like, and writing I hate, but very, very little of it is actually bad.

Only a few, like Ray Bradbury, actually intimidate me to the point of wanting to find another profession.

Putputt
01-04-2013, 07:56 PM
You mention all these writers, and I've never heard of them. I've read a lot of Stephen King, and am in fact reading "Insomnia" currently. I paid $9.99 for the Kindle version. I wouldn't pay two cents for some stuffy word-bag of a writer who pretentiously assumes their readers are going to savour the words they write.

You said you'd send some of your stuff, I'll tell you this seriously: I'd rather read your work, than an author by the name of "Ursula LeGuin." I mean, come on, even the name sounds boring.

In my opinion, writing, that is fiction, is first and foremost entertainment. If the writer can't accomplish that, it doesn't matter how many Ph.D.'s their readers are required to have in order to understand them.

But that's me.:e2shower:

I'm confused as to why you would assume Le Guin is a "stuffy word-bag of a writer who pretentiously assumes their readers are going to savour the words they write"...

Also, you actually seem proud of the fact that you are ignorant of these writers, which to me isn't really something worth crowing about. And the aggressive stance against an author whose only fault is having a name you disapprove of is very, very weird.

I am genuinely confuzzled and am kinda hoping you're a troll because that at least gives some sort of explanation...

shadowwalker
01-04-2013, 08:18 PM
In all fairness, let's remember that not every writer will have heard of every other writer, particularly those outside the genre they write in. I've come across many, many authors I've never heard of before who are apparently very 'big' in their genre - but it's a genre I either don't read or haven't in a long, long time. It's part of the learning experience.

ladybritches
01-04-2013, 08:22 PM
I made the error of reading an Ursula LeGuin book (Tales of Earthsea) tonight. Never in the entire history of our galaxy can I even fantasize about being able to write that well, never never never. Ever.

caw

I feel that way about all my favorite authors. No way will I ever be able to compete. But LeGuin and others like her are why I want to write in the first place. She's inspiration, not competition. ;)

Manuel Royal
01-04-2013, 08:24 PM
I actually found myself avoiding books by Gene Wolfe, because he wrote about a lot of stuff that interested me -- and wrote it way, way better than I thought I ever could. I resented his being so good.

But -- I'm not Gene Wolfe, and he isn't me. There are so many variable factors involved in the qualities of a written work -- and even if you exhaustively analyze it by every possible objective standard, there'll still be the simple fact that everybody has their own taste. I'll never be a great writer, but I hope to be a competent one, and to write stuff that at least some readers connect with and enjoy.

seun
01-04-2013, 08:35 PM
There are a million and one writers who are far better than I will ever be just as there are those whose bottoms I kick with my writing.

So what, though? My focus is writing my stories as well as I can and polishing them before subbing. If I start thinking I'll never be as good as so and so and focusing on that, I won't get anywhere.

ccarver30
01-04-2013, 11:53 PM
Really bad writing can be quite entertaining though. Like... well, I shouldn't say. But I'm sure we all have books that we've read and made a face like this:

:Wha:

then this:

:rolleyes:

then finished the book just to see if it could possibly get any worse.....



LOL!

But yeah, the good stuff is best. Gives you something to work towards.

A certain book that sounds like A Fetcher in the Dye made me: :Huh: then :Wha: then :Headbang: then :guns:
BUT. At least now I can say that I have read it. :Clap:

Zach Lancer
01-05-2013, 12:47 AM
If it's any comfort to those of you despairing when reading great writers, the very greats themselves were hardly immune to this feeling. I believe, although I don't have source for this, that Ernest Hemingway himself once said that when he first read "Crime and Punishment" by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, he despaired because he knew that he would never be able to write a novel of such calibre. So don't fret and instead use that sense of awe constuctively. Turn to these greats like the muses of ancient times. Every great writer and storyteller stood on the shoulders of those who came before him.

Sunflowerrei
01-05-2013, 12:50 AM
To quote the 7th grade science teacher that I disliked who also disliked me: "There's always going to be someone better than you."

Bad writing can give you a confidence boost though. "I can do better than that."

Good writing can be scary sometimes. I still haven't finished Birdsong because I became insanely jealous of Faulks' prose. It happens to us all, right? But I have my own story to write and my own writing lessons to absorb.

mirandashell
01-05-2013, 12:53 AM
I quite liked Fetcher in the Dye......

JustinlDew
01-05-2013, 01:01 AM
A certain book that sounds like A Fetcher in the Dye made me: :Huh: then :Wha: then :Headbang: then :guns:
BUT. At least now I can say that I have read it. :Clap:
There is a certain roaring twenties novel about old money I had this reaction to.
On a completely seperate note: I just realized this is my 200th post.

kkbe
01-05-2013, 02:26 AM
You've never even hear dof these writers, but you judge their worth based on the name they have? Ummm, yeah, that makes sense. If you can find a writer more entertaining than Le Guin, send me the name. That's a writer I want to read.

Really, though. You've never even heard of Ursula K. Le Guin? How long did that coma last, anyway?

I went to Yale.

I went to Harvard.

I never heard of Ursula K. Le Guin.

Two of those three statements are false.

My point is, some people are well read, some aren't. Some remember names, some don't. Respect your fellow writer is a two-way street, that's all I'm sayin'.

Fantasmac
01-05-2013, 04:03 AM
I use great writers as inspiration. Like, there's the bar and keep working until you meet it. Reading crappy fiction is harder because I always feel like why not meeee!

benluby
01-05-2013, 05:38 AM
Now, onto you, Blacbird. You wrote your post tongue-in-cheek, right? Because I can't believe you'd actually and actively read crap so you can feel better about your own stuff. It's counterproductive, I think.

You were joking. I know you were.

In my previous life I was an artist. I took a class in sculpture and when I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts, I was drawn to Rodin. I could almost see his fingertips pushing into the clay, feel his nails raking though it, molding it into something magnificent. I wanted to channel some of that into my own art. I saw a painting by Bouguereau, children outside and he painted dirt on the bottoms of their feet, it blew me away, the exquisitness of it, the attention to such a minute detail, the way he lay paint on canvas, such a delicate touch; lovingly, thoughtfully, precise.

To not avail yourself to the best of others seems self-defeating. How can you know what 'great writing' looks like if you never allow yourself to see it?

Gotta disagree. If you only study the masters works, and only focus on the Davids, Little Mermaids Pieta and Venus de Milo, you fail to notice all the clay ashtrays and ceramic stick figures out there, and if you don't craft a masterpiece, you grow disenchanted and put down your chisel and wash the dust off your hands when you don't reach the pinnacle.

And, before I continue, I am NOT singling out any authors. I am speaking from a strictly hypothetical position:

While one should read the great writers, which is a highly subjective group, but nonetheless they exist for each genre, one should also read the crap in their genre. Why? Because those are our ceramic ashtrays and porcelain stick figures with round boobs.

If they can get a market, what is to stop those who are better?

Read what you enjoy, enjoy what you read, and remember that, no matter how badly we think we're doing, there's always someone out there who has been published that makes us scratch our head.

And...truth be told? There's a sort of perverse pleasure to dive into a pure piece of fiction that is mindnumbingly silly and just fun to read.

Just turn the brain off and hang on for dear life.

kkbe
01-05-2013, 06:40 AM
Hold on, benluby, I didn't say we should seek out the best, exclusive of everything else. I said, how can you know what the best is if you've never seen it? I wouldn't suggest one read only the classics, look only at Michaelangelo's sculptures, seek only photography by people like Ansel Adams. I wouldn't want to stay only at 5-star hotels, drive only million dollar cars.

You're right, there's a lot to be said for the imperfect. The crap. Some of my happiest times have been spent sleeping under the stars in a ratty old sleeping bag. My most fun car trip was in a crap purple Matador that threw some rods in San Diego and stranded us for a week in a roach-infested house with three divorced Navy guys. Perfection is something to aspire to, imperfection is the spice of life.

I think blacbird's post was making a point. So was I.

And so are you, I know. I don't think we're at cross purposes, benluby.

benluby
01-05-2013, 06:45 AM
Hold on, benluby, I didn't say seek out the best exclusively. I said, how can you know what the best is if you've never seen it. I wouldn't suggest one only read the classics, look only at Michaelangelo's sculptures, seek only photography by people like Ansel Adams. I wouldn't want to only stay at 5-star hotels, only drive million dollar cars.

You're right, there's a lot to be said for the imperfect. The crap. Some of my happiest times have been spent sleeping under the stars in a ratty old sleeping bag. My most fun car trip was in a crap purple Matador that threw some rods in San Diego and stranded us for a week in a roach-infested house with three divorced Navy guys. Perfection is something to aspire to, imperfection is spice of life.

I think blacbird's post was making a point. So was I.

And so are you, I know. I don't think we're at cross purposes, benluby.

I stand corrected kkbe. I misunderstood your post, and was rather surprised by what I thought it meant.

kkbe
01-05-2013, 06:48 AM
benluby: I stand corrected kkbe. I misunderstood your post, and was rather surprised by what I thought it meant. Eek. maybe I wasn't clear enough. I have to watch that. :)

VanessaNorth
01-05-2013, 06:51 AM
You know it's funny, I read a book the other day, and when I finished, I wanted to cry, because I will never, ever in a million years be able to write like this author. She was amazing.

Then I read the book a second time, and parts of it three and four times. I studied her craft. I studied the way she put words together, and the way she shaped her plot, and then I bought another book of hers and read it and did the same.

I realize I will never write like this author, our voices are completely different, we write different types of stories. BUT there were tons of things I could learn from the way she crafted her stories, and that's fantastic.

slhuang
01-05-2013, 07:03 AM
You know it's funny, I read a book the other day, and when I finished, I wanted to cry, because I will never, ever in a million years be able to write like this author. She was amazing.


Do you mind saying what book? I'm always eager to find more authors like that . . .

BardSkye
01-05-2013, 08:01 AM
I really don't find very much bad published writing. I find writing I love, writing I like, and writing I hate, but very, very little of it is actually bad.

Only a few, like Ray Bradbury, actually intimidate me to the point of wanting to find another profession.

We're opposites as regards to Bradbury and Le Guin. I loved Bradbury, found him inspirational, wanted to write like that. I read only one Le Guin book and decided she'd done too good a job for me: her aliens were so alien I couldn't understand their motivations, reactions or thinking processes. (Yes, I do understand the lack is on my end, not on hers, and did so even then.)

Like you, though, I haven't found a lot of truly bad writing in published fiction. It may not appeal to me, but that doesn't mean it's bad.

jjdebenedictis
01-05-2013, 08:50 AM
http://i33.photobucket.com/albums/d86/jen_deben/BeautifulLikeYou.jpg

^ Apply that lesson to writing too.

RedWombat
01-05-2013, 09:20 AM
Among the group of illustrators I occasionally pal around with at conventions, there is what's known as the "I-Can't-Paint" face.

This is the face you make when you stand in front of art that is so goddamn much better than you will ever achieve that you know, right down to the core of the marrow inside your left pinkie toe, that you are a talentless hack and should throw your paintbrushes into the nearest lake.

(In my case this involves wide eyes, slightly tensed lower eyelids, right hand clenched in hair on top of head, lower lip wibbling slightly, fist clutched to chin optional. Your mileage may vary, but you can almost always tell when somebody's makin' the face.)

A friend of mine recounts the tale of having attended a very large convention and visiting the art show, where he found Michael Whelan, who was top of the S/F cover field at the time, standing in front of a painting by James Gurney (of Dinotopia fame) and making the "I-Can't-Paint" face.

Two bays down, James Gurney was standing in front of a Michael Whelan painting making the exact same face.

So....y'know.

benluby
01-05-2013, 09:47 AM
A friend of mine recounts the tale of having attended a very large convention and visiting the art show, where he found Michael Whelan, who was top of the S/F cover field at the time, standing in front of a painting by James Gurney (of Dinotopia fame) and making the "I-Can't-Paint" face.

Two bays down, James Gurney was standing in front of a Michael Whelan painting making the exact same face.

So....y'know.

This is perhaps dead on right. I think as artists, be it with the written word, paint, clay or a welding gun, the day we think we're all that and a bag of chips (with dip) is the day we should give up.
We do the best we can with what we have and let the readers determine just how damned good or bad we are.

blacbird
01-05-2013, 09:54 AM
A friend of mine recounts the tale of having attended a very large convention and visiting the art show, where he found Michael Whelan, who was top of the S/F cover field at the time, standing in front of a painting by James Gurney (of Dinotopia fame) and making the "I-Can't-Paint" face.

Two bays down, James Gurney was standing in front of a Michael Whelan painting making the exact same face.


It probably helps if you've had some level of success that can be connected with the word "fame".

Or any level of success below that.

caw

KTC
01-05-2013, 06:23 PM
Sorry...but I don't get the writer envy stuff. I write beautiful writing because it lifts me higher. I can't be envious of the things that make my heart sing.

buz
01-05-2013, 10:37 PM
Among the group of illustrators I occasionally pal around with at conventions, there is what's known as the "I-Can't-Paint" face.

This is the face you make when you stand in front of art that is so goddamn much better than you will ever achieve that you know, right down to the core of the marrow inside your left pinkie toe, that you are a talentless hack and should throw your paintbrushes into the nearest lake.

Fuckin' Caravaggio.

(and then I stopped painting)

(...of course I probably never had the patience for painting to begin with but it's still Caravaggio's fault)

I actually didn't like The Wizard of Earthsea, but I was like nine when I read it so I don't remember why. :p I think I really liked Peter Benchley at the time. Or maybe that was the Sherlock Holmes phase? Hrm. Hard to keep track of my literary phases.

I do get envious. I read a manuscript recently that had my brain all wrenched around itself because it had a particularly awesomely brilliantly marvelously done villain and a totally adorable love story. But after the enviousness there's a weird surge of motivation. It doesn't last very long, unfortunately, but I have this feeling of "goddamn it THIS IS WHAT THE KEYBOARD IS CAPABLE OF so I'mma MAKE it my BITCH."

Or something.

I only get despondent afterwards, when I fail to actually make the keyboard my bitch :p But it's because I'm failing in my own right, not because I'm doing it different...if that makes sense. :D

ap123
01-06-2013, 02:36 AM
I get it. There are writers whose words motivate me to work harder, be more thoughtful; others where I've closed the book wondering why I bother, convinced I should give up.

On the other hand, I was once in a critique group where someone responded to my (?!) writing the same way. Sent me into a panic, I couldn't write anything for weeks.

frankiebrown
01-06-2013, 08:07 AM
Rule Number One: Never Compare Yourself to Other Artists. (http://cdnimg.visualizeus.com/thumbs/32/c3/frase,advice,art,funny,inspiration,drawing-32c3c360d3e35366de19e96eaad7c11c_h.jpg) I know, I know. I almost deleted my entire MS after reading Cloud Atlas. But it'll only bring you down.

Shika Senbei
01-06-2013, 03:06 PM
The only problem I have with "great writers" is that I often don't find their writing all that great, despite what the vast majority of people claim. I guess this has to do with my inability to be impressed by names and opinions. I tend to judge an individual work on its own merits, irrespective of who wrote it.

crunchyblanket
01-06-2013, 03:41 PM
Sometimes I admit to being utterly disheartened when I read a book and think "shit, I'll never ever write anything half as good as that." But when I'm finished moping and sulking, I get up and decide I'm going to have a bloody good crack at it anyway. I go back to that book and read it criticially, looking at what it is that made me feel so inferior in the first place. I learn lessons from it. IMO, it's how you become a better writer.

eyeblink
01-06-2013, 04:41 PM
Quite agree. If you want to grow as a writer you should read above your own level.

That said, some of my favourite writers are people who make me wonder how I could ever compete with them. I wouldn't have read 42 (soon to be 43) Joyce Carol Oates novels/novellas if her work didn't frequently blow me away.

Parkinsonsd
01-06-2013, 04:49 PM
Tequila helps immensely in these situations.

Terie
01-06-2013, 05:17 PM
The only problem I have with "great writers" is that I often don't find their writing all that great, despite what the vast majority of people claim. I guess this has to do with my inability to be impressed by names and opinions. I tend to judge an individual work on its own merits, irrespective of who wrote it.

This is pretty disrespectful of both writers and readers. You're essentially saying that writers whom others think are great are considered great only because the readers were impressed by names and others' opinions.

Has it ever occurred to you that a writer can be great without you necessarily liking his or her work? That others who think that a writer you don't like is great might have reached their own opinions by judging the work, as you do, on its own merit? Or do you think you are the only reader capable of making such a judgment, and therefore anyone who has an opinion differing from yours is just a sheep rather than a discriminating reader?

shadowwalker
01-06-2013, 05:59 PM
I've found that some writers have indeed made me quite humble and dejected. Then I go back and re-read - not only do I learn how to do things, but I discover there are actually things I can learn not to do. It does help realizing that even great writers aren't perfect. :tongue

stray
01-06-2013, 07:18 PM
Tequila helps immensely in these situations.

Seconded.

jjdebenedictis
01-06-2013, 09:29 PM
I guess this has to do with my inability to be impressed by names and opinions. Or your inability to be impressed with that particular book, which is fine, but I'll ditto everything Terie said about it being disrespectful to imply people who like stuff you don't like are starstruck morons.
I tend to judge an individual work on its own merits, irrespective of who wrote it.LIKE THE REST OF US DO. Really, you think someone is willing spend money and slog through three hundred pages they don't enjoy because of the cachet of the author's name?

virtue_summer
01-06-2013, 09:45 PM
The only problem I have with "great writers" is that I often don't find their writing all that great, despite what the vast majority of people claim. I guess this has to do with my inability to be impressed by names and opinions. I tend to judge an individual work on its own merits, irrespective of who wrote it.
It seems to me the thread was about the effect writers we think are great have on us. After all, it started with the OP being blown away with a work that impressed them, not that someone told them to be impressed by. So I don't see how this applies.

virtue_summer
01-06-2013, 09:55 PM
Oh, and my contribution to the topic: When a work blows me away like this I vacillate between wanting to write in hopes I can do something half as good and despair that that's all I will be able to do. It seems weird, but it's true. It won't stop me reading my favorite writers, though, because, well, they're still my favorite writers. Make any sense?

Maze Runner
01-06-2013, 10:46 PM
I only read writers I think are great. Not really a masochist- not in all situations anyway- I'm just deluded enough to think that I can learn from them.

muravyets
01-07-2013, 12:20 AM
Great writing and great art inspire me, teach me, and make me humble all at the same time. Great writing gives me perspective on my own work. Good, realistic perspective.

Good, realistic, complete perspective comes from reading really crappy writing and looking at shit art, too. I get to know both ends of the spectrum, and that helps me understand my own work better.

I learn how to write and how not to write by reading both great and lousy works. I learn what works and what doesn't in general and in my genres. I gain a greater understanding of the art of writing by applying the same analysis to great works and lousy works and by comparing them to each other and to my own stuff.

Finally, I tend to respond well to negative motivation. I mean, I seldom am motivated to write my heart out by someone else's beautiful, moving work, but I am definitely motivated by work that I think is bad, that treats my genre poorly, that mishandles a good idea. "Even I can do better than that" is a better prod for me than "I hope and dream to be even half this good some day."

So I have never despaired of my own talent because of reading great writing, but I've never been driven to write because of it, either. I am instructed and inspired by great writing, but I am motivated by a competitive impulse to show someone who I think has failed how to do it right.

Maze Runner
01-07-2013, 01:46 AM
The truth is, I'll read anything. Right now I'm reading a book by Jerry Lewis called Dean and Me. It's not a work of art, as you might imagine, but there's still something to learn and it's fun- great stories and anecdotes and I like it. But there are writers I read because they do something I would like to be able to do better, or at all. It's really the approach or the effect that I'm going for- not to emulate or mimic. I'll read someone like Michael Chabon or Norman Mailer or Bukowski or McMurtry and think, This is brilliant stuff. I'll never be able to write like that. But then would I really want to? Some version of Chabon's beautiful prose, Bukowski's bare-boned honesty, yes, and then I will try to find some beauty and honesty in my prose- but a different kind. Mine.

Tirjasdyn
01-07-2013, 06:05 AM
I think Ira Glass covered this topic best:


“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”


― Ira Glass

As for great, and criticism, well, that never stops. You become great *cough* Shakespeare *cough* and you are criticized forever. It establishes schools of thought, modes of teaching and shapes the way we think.

There will still be people who love Ray Bradbury, yet dislike Ursula K. LeGuin or the other way around 100 years from now.

Shika Senbei
01-07-2013, 11:05 AM
I'll ditto everything Terie said about it being disrespectful to imply people who like stuff you don't like are starstruck morons

Please point out where I wrote that. Be precise, i.e. quote the exact phrase.

Terie
01-07-2013, 11:40 AM
Please point out where I wrote that. Be precise, i.e. quote the exact phrase.

Right here, which I quoted the first time:


The only problem I have with "great writers" is that I often don't find their writing all that great, despite what the vast majority of people claim. I guess this has to do with my inability to be impressed by names and opinions. I tend to judge an individual work on its own merits, irrespective of who wrote it.

I'll rephrase this to parse out what we're getting from what you wrote: 'I don't find the writing of many "great writers" to be all that great, because I don't get impressed by names and opinions; unlike those other readers, I judge individual work on its own merits, not by the author who wrote it.'

If you meant something other than what you actually wrote, you might want to consider the clarity of your writing.

bettielee
01-07-2013, 11:43 AM
I actually quit reading a cheapy Kindle self-pub because I recognized immediately that this lady made all the same mistakes I do when writing. I don't need to that sort of affirmation.

slhuang
01-07-2013, 11:47 AM
Please point out where I wrote that. Be precise, i.e. quote the exact phrase.

Hi Shika,

Unfortunately that's the impression I got from your post, too. :( FWIW, from your response it sounds like you didn't mean it that way.

It looks to me like you might have misread the thread. We've been talking about writers WE think are great, as in, what happens when we personally read writers who knock our socks off, irrespective of who they are or what other people think of them. We're not talking about writers deemed "great" by some sort of academic consensus. Your post sounded like that's what you thought we were talking about, though, and that you thought the only authors who knocked those proverbial socks off us were authors others had told us "should" be that good, which isn't what the thread was about at all.

I hope this helps clear things up. I'm enjoying this thread and I'd rather not see it derailed by a misunderstanding.

Shika Senbei
01-07-2013, 12:05 PM
Right here, which I quoted the first time:



As much as I try, I can't find the phrase "starstruck morons" anywhere in that quote. How curious. Maybe you could try to be a bit more precise still? Or are you implying that I used some sort of subterfuge to hide that phrase from plain sight?

Terie
01-07-2013, 12:13 PM
As much as I try, I can't find the phrase "starstruck morons" anywhere in that quote. How curious. Maybe you could try to be a bit more precise still? Or are you implying that I used some sort of subterfuge to hide that phrase from plain sight?

First of all, I'm not the one who used 'starstruck morons'; that was someone else. And what you wrote implied that. If you didn't mean to imply that, then your writing wasn't very clear. I'm obviously not the only one who got that message from your post.

Instead of arguing over people's intrepretation of what you wrote, perhaps you should reread what you wrote from an objective point of view and try to learn why you were (apparently) misunderstood. That's what I do when someone misinterprets what I write: I examine it to see where I went wrong so I can avoid making the same mistake again. (And I say 'apparently' because you haven't actually said that what you wrote isn't what you meant.)

lolchemist
01-07-2013, 03:36 PM
You will never write like Ursula LeGuin but she will never write like you either! We all have our own style of writing and our own ideas, which are limitless if we let them be. Let great books inspire you to do better, not bring you down!

But I'm not going to lie, I LOVE reading bad books, they inspire my writing so much! It's this inner rage of 'HOW DID THIS DRECK GET PUBLISHED! I MUST PUKE OUT 1000 WORDS RIGHT NOW TO MAKE MYSELF FEEL BETTER!'

jjdebenedictis
01-08-2013, 12:13 AM
As much as I try, I can't find the phrase "starstruck morons" anywhere in that quote. How curious. Maybe you could try to be a bit more precise still? Or are you implying that I used some sort of subterfuge to hide that phrase from plain sight?Terie has parsed my meaning correctly. When I used the phrase "starstruck morons", that was me paraphrasing what you appeared to be implying: that people who like what you don't like must really be trying to fit in with the herd by worshiping the "cool" authors.

I.e. You're claiming they're starstruck morons, even if you didn't use those exact words.

Three people in this thread interpreted your words this way. If it's not what you meant, please clarify what you did mean.

mirandashell
01-08-2013, 12:17 AM
As much as I try, I can't find the phrase "starstruck morons" anywhere in that quote. How curious. Maybe you could try to be a bit more precise still? Or are you implying that I used some sort of subterfuge to hide that phrase from plain sight?

I also interpreted your original post the same as Teri and JJ.

You think maybe rephrasing it would be better?

shadowwalker
01-08-2013, 01:11 AM
I didn't get the implication it was as bad as calling people 'starstruck morons'. :Shrug:

SomethingOrOther
01-08-2013, 02:58 AM
As much as I try, I can't find the phrase "starstruck morons" anywhere in that quote. How curious. Maybe you could try to be a bit more precise still? Or are you implying that I used some sort of subterfuge to hide that phrase from plain sight?

You might have the unfortunate habit of sharing your (negative) opinions on different writers where they aren't relevant at all: here's another example (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=7676072#post7676072).

Points #1 and #2 (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=7850008#post7850008) are relevant here.

Regardless of whether you were misinterpreted or not, you probably shouldn't do that anymore. It's not just a little douchey.

August Talok
01-10-2013, 10:48 PM
I love to read great writers - it sets my brain on fire and inspires me to write better.

Shadow_Ferret
01-10-2013, 11:45 PM
Always read crappy ones. Crappy writers will at least delude you into thinking you can write better than they can. Great writers? Not a chance.

I made the error of reading an Ursula LeGuin book (Tales of Earthsea) tonight. Never in the entire history of our galaxy can I even fantasize about being able to write that well, never never never. Ever.

If anybody really needs to feel good about what they write, just ask me, and I'll send you some of my stuff.

cawi wonder then if I've just never read a "great" author because everything Ive read, I always think I can do as well.

cmi0616
01-12-2013, 09:41 AM
I feel your pain. Saul Bellow has recently made me feel incredibly insecure about any ability/future I have as a writer.

Amadan
01-14-2013, 03:49 AM
i wonder then if I've just never read a "great" author because everything Ive read, I always think I can do as well.


Then you haven't ever read a great author. Or else you should learn you some humility and honest self-appraisal.

Shadow_Ferret
01-15-2013, 09:25 PM
Then you haven't ever read a great author. Or else you should learn you some humility and honest self-appraisal.
Possibly, except I have plenty of humility and honest self-appraisal. I said "I ... think I can," I never said "I have" achieved it.

LeslieB
01-16-2013, 05:58 AM
A friend read some of my work and told me that my writing reminded her a lot of her favorite writer. I picked up some of the books she mentioned, and now that author is my favorite, too. It gave me one heck of an ego boost.

CChampeau
01-17-2013, 04:35 AM
What cheers me up when I think, "I never could have come up with something like that," is that
1. With more writing experience, I may yet be able to, and
2. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and I probably can do something better than so-and-so can. :P But even if I can't,
3. My life experiences are unique. Therefore, I have something to say that no one else can quite say.

I think number 3. is the most important to remember. :)

Phaeal
01-17-2013, 07:36 PM
Possibly, except I have plenty of humility and honest self-appraisal. I said "I ... think I can," I never said "I have" achieved it.

I'm all for honest self-appraisal, but humility? Not so much. Makes me think of Uriah Heep.

My own approach is "I don't know if I can reach the heights, but I'm sure going to try for that." Why hobble yourself by positing from the start that it's impossible?

Shadow_Ferret
01-18-2013, 05:02 AM
They were a great band, Uriah Heep.

Maze Runner
01-18-2013, 08:40 PM
I feel your pain. Saul Bellow has recently made me feel incredibly insecure about any ability/future I have as a writer.

Have you read Augie March? What did you think?

cmi0616
01-18-2013, 10:43 PM
Have you read Augie March? What did you think?

That was actually exactly the book I had in mind. I thought it was a fantastic book. Incredibly clever, and it was a very bookish book, which I tend to like... Not to mention the prose was just great.

Like I said, made me feel very insecure about my own work, so there's that...

Maze Runner
01-18-2013, 11:20 PM
That was actually exactly the book I had in mind. I thought it was a fantastic book. Incredibly clever, and it was a very bookish book, which I tend to like... Not to mention the prose was just great.

Like I said, made me feel very insecure about my own work, so there's that...

It's the one a lot of writers and critics cite as The Great American Novel, so I went out and bought it. And I read about half but found it a little heavy in style, and I felt insecure for that reason. You know, How can I aspire to write novels if I can't appreciate the one that's supposed to be the or at least "a" standard? Then when I read Mailer's Spooky Art, I felt a bit redeemed when he said something along those same lines. Wait, I have it, Norman said, "The Adventures of Augie March was written in a way which could only be called all writing ... Everything was smothered by the style."

That was my problem with it. The language was thick, like trudging through mud. Did you find that? If so, I guess it wasn't so off-putting for you...

Vito
01-19-2013, 01:53 AM
I usually classify any writer that writes something that I really like as a "great writer", no matter what. It all started when I was four years old, sitting at the kitchen table, eating Froot Loops in my official Woody Woodpecker bowl (with matching spoon), reading the words on the back of the Froot Loops box, and thinking to myself, "Wow, this reading and writing stuff is great!" :Thumbs:

cmi0616
01-19-2013, 07:40 AM
"The Adventures of Augie March was written in a way which could only be called all writing ... Everything was smothered by the style."

That was my problem with it. The language was thick, like trudging through mud. Did you find that? If so, I guess it wasn't so off-putting for you...

Yeah, I've heard that about it before. There's something almost Beat about his style in that book, but I rather liked it for the most part. I thought he could have done a little less with talking about his travels in Mexico, that part just seemed like a detour to me. But I liked the rest of it so much I didn't mind at the end of the day.

blacbird
01-19-2013, 11:15 AM
I think I was wrong about something when I said you should read crappy writers. If you can't get stuff published, you shouldn't do that, either. They got published, and you can't. Not a good comparison.

caw

phantasy
01-20-2013, 11:02 AM
It really depends who I'm reading. Hemingway gives me confidence because I love simple, strong writing. I can visualize his scenes the best.

LeGuin makes my head spin. I love the books but anyone who can write three line sentences and keep me reading is amazing. I dare not try it...yet.

And writing that is very character emotion driven...I don't like as much, particularly when it begins to sounds like a diary. Too many feels. Emotions are great but I want a great plot and interesting characters more than anything.

princessmiwi
01-31-2013, 01:13 AM
I need to read great books to remind myself why I want to write in the first place. Sometimes it takes a while before I get to some really good book, and I start thinking "nah, that's so much effort, and most books are so boring" and then I reach this book and it's all PURE MAGIC, and then I write in such bliss...

But, sometimes, when you are feeling down... look, some great writers have rather lousy stories published, too. Sometimes it helps to read those stories, see the improvement and think you can improve too.