Monday, September 22, 2008


I have a few friends who have written books or are in the process of writing one. Like many people, I've entertained fantasies of seeing my own book (as yet unwritten) in a prominent position at Borders, and answering probing questions from Terry Gross about said book. It seems like such a cliched idea on my part, though. For all I know, my son is working his memoirs during recess.

Anyway, Boston Globe columnist Penelope Trunk made a mighty good case for not turning one's ideas into a book. Just as interesting are some of the comments that follow.

Depending on what mood I'm in, writing can be its own reward. I have a job. God knows I don't want to contribute to the pile of mediocre-to-bad novels taking up bookstore space — especially since so many of my friends are writers. (Though I told a friend I was going to write a parody of one of those glossy, contemporary "urban" novels and see if anyone gets the joke.) Still, it's hard not to envy people who make a splash with novels that are thinly veiled memoirs, or those who make no pretense of aspiring to be Alice Walker or, for that matter, E. Lynn Harris.

On the other hand, Trunk offers this cold blast of reality: "Many people think they have a ton of ideas and they are brimming with book possibilities when in fact, most of us have very few new ideas. If you have so many ideas, prove it to the world and start blogging."

Dag! Even if you don't agree, you have to respect the woman's honesty.


T.H. Elliott said...

That's what has been keeping me from trying to publish a book of poetry. The thought that, hey, it's been done before.

downtown guy said...

Working with zines, I have to say - if you have the energy and drive to do it, do it. So what if it's just another terrible novel? It either won't get published or someone out there will enjoy it. It's not like someone publishing their own crappy book will prevent the great writers of the world from doing what they do best.

Now, people who say, "Oh, I always wanted to write" - with them I have no patience. Either you write or you do not.

EDP said...

TH, as a fellow writer, I want to say, "Well, they haven't seen YOUR poetry!" And DG has a good point, too. No one has to actually read things they consider dreck. And it does take a tremendous amount of discipline to write something - anything - over a long period of time. Whenever I feel moved to criticize someone's published work, I have to remind myself that they at least created something.