Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Self aware...

Self-consciousness is said to be a horror, a crippling affliction to be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, it seems to be true that becoming self-conscious is a turning point in the process of becoming a writer. Stepping back and seeing (and hearing) the work as others will. I've spoken with several scribes who described the effect of a tough editor in making them understand that writing a first draft is not writing. That being able to judge if what you've written actually communicates what you intend is a key step toward becoming a professional -- which also means, turning play into work. First you fool around, then you fix it.

A professor at the School that employs me was talking the other day about the student theatrical productions that are venturing off the campus this year for short runs at public venues such as The New LATC. I wondered if their teachers had any anxiety about exposing their students to that kind of pressure. "That's the attitude of an amateur," he said. "We're training professionals."

Even writers who regard themselves as professionals seem to think of their obligations differently. The code of honor that some tough-guy writers adhere to enthrones efficiency, expunging every unnecessary word. The professionalism of some commercial writers revolves around productivity: a column every two days, a book a year. And not only commercial writers think this way: like many of our 19th century favorites, Roberto Boloño, who I've been looking at again, wrote his "art novels" very quickly, partly to fulfil his responsibilities as a family man. Did he intentionally adopt an approach to the novel that would benefit rather than suffer from being cranked out at a dead run, a virtue-of-necessity move that soon became second nature?

From Boloño's 100%-reliable Wikipedia bio:

In an interview Bolaño said that he began writing fiction because he felt responsible for the future financial well-being of his family, which he knew he could never secure from the earnings of a poet. This was confirmed by Jorge Herralde, who explained that Bolaño "abandoned his parsimonious beatnik existence" because the birth of his son in 1990 made him "decide that he was responsible for his family's future and that it would be easier to earn a living by writing fiction."


In [Rodrigo] Fresán's ... view he "was one of a kind, a writer who worked without a net, who went all out, with no brakes, and in doing so, created a new way to be a great Latin American writer."

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