Saturday, 25 September 2010

Writing Just For Meeeee!

I've recently been to Venice. I stayed in a fabulous hotel I'd found on-line via TripAdvisor. Most of the reviews were complimentary - great location, lovely room, friendly staff - but one was huffy because the reviewer hadn't been able to fit into the shower. She described herself as being well-built. Well-built??? And you can't fit through a normal sized shower door??? I mean, I was there and I am not a skinny minnie, and I had no problems.

Some years ago I was in a group workshop situation. The student being workshopped was incredibly resistant to the teeniest of suggestions for change, even when the changes were for clarity of meaning rather than about style or content. It was incredibly frustrating. Finally I said, 'None of us understood what you meant by this phrase. Surely it's worth at least considering changing a couple of words so we can understand.'

'I write for me,' he replied grandly. 'And I am perfectly satisfied with my work.'

Which is fabulous, for him - I'd love to be that confident about my writing - but does ask the question, why bother to go on a writing course, why bother to workshop? I believe the answer is that what they really mean is, they want the world to fit in with them. If a reader is critical, well, that's the reader's fault for being obtuse, or insensitive, or intellectually impoverished.

I've tried writing poetry. They're not good poems, but I don't mind because they really are just for me. No one has ever seen them, or ever will. That's what 'just for me' means. If you put your work up for comment, then you have to accept that comments will be made. You don't have to change your work by one single word as a result of those comments, but in my experience people want to be helpful. If they say they didn't understand what was going on then it's not because they're stupid or insensitive. Your writing is unclear.

So don't kid yourself you're not fitting into the shower because the door is too small. It isn't, and you're not.

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