Tuesday, 6 December 2011

G is for Generosity

One of my favourite quotes comes from Peggy Ramsay, legendary theatrical agent for - among many other playwrights - Joe Orton and Harold Pinter. She said,

"If you believe you have talent, be generous with it."

I like that quote. I believe I have talent, and I try to be generous with it. Instead of anally hanging on to work that's below par I believe that I not only can do better, I will do better. Cut cut cut. And then I re-write, and the re-write is always better. Being generous with your writing works.

I'm generous with myself, and don't beat myself up if I have a day when I'm not working. I allow time to recharge the batteries. I'd rather have a novel that took a long time but was as good as I could make it, than churning out one just because I knew it would be accepted for publication at something less than my personal standard. It has to be said that this isn't a good policy with publishers, who would like authors to produce novels to a regular schedule, but I believe that in the long term quality will win over quantity.

I also try to be generous with other writers. Quite a few people have expressed amazement that I give away the information in the blog for free. I accept that it may be total madness in this money grabbing world of ours, but there it is. And I try to be generous with helping others on the path to publication. The only time I've had a real fight with another writer was when one took me to task for helping more writers get published - increasing the competition, she called it. Grrr. How can it possibly increase my competition? No one else in the world can write a Sarah Duncan novel.

I don't believe I have limitless talent - if anything, I'm afraid that my talent is a small and rather weedy thing - but I do believe that it is there. So I try to be generous with it, to my writing, to myself, to others. After all, if it's good enough for Pinter, it's good enough for me.


liz fenwick said...

I appreciate your generosity of this brilliant blog!!! thank you!

Patsy said...

I hadn't thought of it in this way, but I do believe it's important to make my work as good as I can and then get it 'out there'. Love the idea that I'm thereby being generous with my talent!

Philip C James said...

I'm with Liz in thanking you for sharing your views on how to write well and get published.

One of your talents is for self-deprecation; I think you understand very well the principles of marketing. One of them applies particularly to purveyors of intellectual property - if you demonstrate your expertise as a 'rain maker', neophytes will beat a path to your door to learn at your feet.

(Though I do hope you don't make them prostrate themselves the whole workshop long?)

Why do we describe some things pejoratively as 'small and weedy'? They may look it at first glance but weeds are tough, persistent little buggers that make the most of what they have and flourish over time whereas their more beautiful and delicate cousins bloom and wither...

Victoria said...

Thanks, Sarah - I value both your generosity itself, and your frank way of talking about it. Writing is so often a roller-coaster - high exhilaration when things go well, wracking misery when they don't. Amid the ups and crashing downs it's good to have a sound principle, like being generous with talent, to hang onto.

womagwriter said...

I love the generosity of your blog too, and try to do the same with mine. I've had similar comments asking why am I helping the competition? My answer is that if no one had helped me, I'd have got nowhere, and I believe in paying it forward.

Love the concept of being generous with your talent, too!

Debs Carr said...

I appreciate your generosity very much and always learn from your blog posts.

Thank you.

Sarah Duncan said...

Thank you all for your kind words - I wasn't fishing, honestly!

Phil, it's not an absolute requirement for my classes that participants remain prostrate all the way through. Like your weedy point.