View Full Version : Is this an unspoken writers' rule?

01-20-2007, 01:40 AM
I got a bit of confusing information from my editor about my latest column. I'd written a rather humorous piece about how difficult it is to get the ideas flowing sometimes and how writers procrastinate.

I don't know if my editor was having a particularly bad day or what, but he said that writing about the difficulty of writing is not good writing. I've seen plenty of columnist who muse on the art of writing and love those sorts of columns, so that's why I wrote about it. He said it was fine, but I should avoid writing about writing in the future.

What do you think? Is that a taboo subject for writers?

01-20-2007, 01:45 AM
I don't think it's a taboo, but I would tend to agree with him (and he did say it was alright . . . this once).

Of course, it's of interest to us here, but for a general readership I think there's better topics.

Just one man's opinion.

Kate Thornton
01-20-2007, 01:46 AM
I don't think it's taboo - I write about writing - but I do think it is seen as "lazy thinking" by many editors who want you to write about something you *don't* do all the time.

01-20-2007, 01:48 AM
I think it would depend on the intended audience. Right? A writing zine would be a better fit for such an essay than a zine for general audiences. I would think.

01-20-2007, 03:29 AM
If it's a taboo subject in general, then Stephen King and Ray Bradbury and Neil Gaiman are all doomed.

Anyway, it's not unspoken anymore, you just done gone and made a thread about it...!

Soccer Mom
01-20-2007, 05:10 AM
Audra MacDonald has a brilliant series of songs all based on the seven deadly sins. The one for "Sloth" is about a procrastinating writer. I almost peed my pants at her last concert during that one. The audience chuckled appreciatively. I laughed until I cried. If my sister could have moved to another seat, she would have.

It's not taboo, but just not what that editor wants.

01-20-2007, 10:49 AM
I think it may also have to do with what your column is about and what kind of topics you usually cover. Maybe the editor felt that writing topics for this particular column don't work well?

01-20-2007, 11:15 AM
I think I can see his point. Like maybe he thought you didn't work hard enough to come up with a column idea. It can be enjoyable to read at times, but not if it reads like someone just wasn't making an effort to provide me with real content.

Of course, I haven't read the piece, and it could be a great article. But he's probably teaching you something you'll later thank him for.


Moon Daughter
01-20-2007, 08:46 PM
It really all depends on the writer I suppose. If you can make it funny and interesting, then why not?!

01-23-2007, 12:11 AM
I always thought it was a little cliche and tend to avoid it. . . ever read a book about an author struggling with their art? It seems to me a bit passe. . . but have you ever written anything like that? Of course! We all have. It is natural to put our own struggles into our work in fictionalized form, though maybe that should be part of the work that ends up on the cutting room floor.

01-23-2007, 12:32 AM
I find columns that seem overly 'about' the writer far less interesting than those that are 'from' them but address a more universal theme.

01-23-2007, 01:05 AM
I’ve heard that one of the standards of television writing is that you earn the right to use the gorilla-suit. That is, after you’ve produced enough good scripts, you can whip out some stupid stuff that has the hero running around in a dumb outfit. Could this be the newspaper column version?

Mac H.
01-23-2007, 09:04 AM
Why don't you change a few words so that more of the audience will connect with it?

Perhaps change it so it is about procrastination in cleaning out the garage, or something.


01-23-2007, 09:09 AM
"What the editor doesn't want" sounds like the definition of taboo, regardless of topic.

Cat Scratch
01-23-2007, 08:29 PM
What is your regular column about? If the piece in question isn't topical, than I see your editor's point. But if it's a column specifically about writing, I don't see why the subject matter itself is problematic.

I agree that if your column is just a general "humor" column than you may want to widen your spectrum to include procrastination in general. Because writing about not writing when writing isn't your topic does seem a little like an easy out.

01-24-2007, 07:29 PM
Thanks for your thoughts! It's a general slice-of-life column and it was the first time I wrote about writing.

I got some good comments on it from readers, so I feel better about it now! :D

01-24-2007, 07:40 PM
Depends on the audience. If it is a rule, as PeeDee says, a lot of very good writers break it often. Personally, I love such articles. But I wouldn't try peddling one to anything other than an audience of wannabe writers.

01-24-2007, 10:30 PM
I don't think it's an unspoken rule, I hear it quite often. It's not the use of writers as characters or a mention of the act of writing that should be avoided, mind you, but focusing a work on the writing process. The two reasons I always hear are 1.) It's cliche. How many writers haven't thought about doing something on the difficulty of their profession? and 2.) Unless it's being written for writers, the audience probably isn't going to have much interest in it.