Love of writing

Doris Egan has a lovely essay about writing from the heart that explains that it does not mean writing drippy and sentimental (unless, you know, that’s your heart’s desire), but allowing yourself to write what you want to write without second guessing yourself.

I have heard people object to the idea that you should write what you love on the grounds that some people have no talent and no taste and what they love is too hideous for words.

Leaving aside how subjective the idea of talent and taste are, why can’t people without either write if they want to? Who are they harming? (Other than the eyes and brains of those who read the slush pile, but they knew the dangers when they took on the job.)

Lots of people write who have no intention of ever being published or becoming a pro writer. Why shouldn’t they? I like to dance, but I’m not ever going to make a living at it.

Sure there are lots of people who try to become pro writers and don’t succeed. There are lots of actors, singers, musicians and dancers who are unable to support themselves doing it. So they find other ways to make a living, but keep on doing what it is that they love.

I know I talk here a lot about writing as a profession. That’s because I’m a pro writer and the realities of that concern me greatly. But if I stop being able to make a living at it, I will not stop writing. This isn’t just how I earn my money, it’s a huge part of who I am. Most of my writing life has been spent unpublished and without an audience. It never stopped me.

I love writing. If you love it, no matter how talentless others might consider you, then write.


  1. jenny d on #

    thanks for the link, that put me in a good mood…

  2. Penni on #

    I am reading through some unsoliciteds at the moment and I’ve been thinking about an issue close to this (it’s going to need some longwinded contextualising, sorry). I don’t know if people remember last year some cocky journo thought it would be a hoot to submit a chapter of Patrick White’s novel and then sit back and snigger as they all rejected it. In the commentary regarding this Sophie Cunningham raised a valid point on her blog (you need to google these things yourself because I can’t do html well enough to not paste in ridiculously long urls that seem to mess with justine’s formatting) that there’s a view that reading manuscripts by publishers is a public service, and I agreed with her that it is not. Which is not to say that publishers don’t take unsols very seriously because they do. Anyway, I was reminded of this because one of the manuscripts I brought home was one written by a woman based largely on diaries she kept in the 40s. A quick glance showed me that chances are it’s not going to be publishable, that the writing itself isn’t accomplished enough for the publisher I read for (unless the material ends up being really compelling). But yet I feel compelled to give it my close attention – because it comes from her heart and because it says something ‘real’ about Australian history. On the whole I am quite touched by first manuscripts written by older people, because usually it is only accomplished voices that gain themselves a public forum in this age group (aside from the odd hipster who ends up on myspace) and perhaps because my own love of story comes from oral stories told by older members of my family and from my constant sadness that there isn’t a volume somewhere containing every story ever told by anyone I was ever related to.

    Chances are she’ll never know I read it, or that she received extra attention. And yet I still feel a sense of cultural obligation in a way that I don’t if it was a manuscript (as most of them are) written very earnestly but not from the heart about some important issue that they think affects young people today.

    So that’s my 2c worth on the benefit of writing what you love. I’m a bit not very well so sorry if it doesn’t make any sense.

  3. Justine on #

    Jenny D: Doris Egan’s blog is totally worth reading. It’s just a bummer she posts so infrequently. TV writers are so lazy.

    Penni: Yeah, there’s a certain kind of wannabe writer who reckons writing for kids’ll be a sure ticket cause it’s so easy. And they don’t get that it ain’t easy. And if you don’t love the genre or even know much about the genre it’s a lot harder to write something that anyone else would want to read.

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