On Writing On by Vincent McCaffrey

Fri 21 Jan 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | 1 Comment | Posted by: Gavin

On Writing On by Vincent McCaffrey

Everyone I have ever spoken to or read about who writes has a different reason for doing it. Love is far less complicated.

Some have similar reasons but never exactly the same.

The most often heard and most unlikely reason is money. That situation has more in common with the ’49’s who went to California to strike it rich panning gold and ended up with other lives along the way. Very few, even of the best, get rich.

Another frequently used excuse (they are all excuses after all) is to understand oneself. In a lifetime of reading I have found only a handful of writers who understood themselves and those are the ones who had such knowledge to begin with.

Fame can be dismissed with riches as patently stupid and demonstrably foolish. I can name ten great authors (not good ones–great ones), off the cuff, who are essentially unknown.

I have even come across an author or two who thought themselves wise. Right. And they wish to spread their wisdom. Actually it is a lucky few of this type who fill the ‘non-fiction’ best seller list each year with their tripe. Every season another crop of ‘truth’ sayers. Somehow they are never happy enough with themselves to shut up. There is always another truth to tell.

Having ‘something to say’ is just as silly a reason to write. Why should anyone care what you have to say? Are you rich? Are you famous? Are you wise? No. Well then. Case closed.

I have frequently encountered the ruse ‘I hate to write. I don’t know why I do it.’ Or some such unlikely statement. This is the equivalent of what Br’er Rabbit told Br’er Fox. “Please don’t throw me in that briar patch.”

Writers revel in themselves and writing is a legal form of public self-abuse.

Oh, no! I said it! I gave up the secret! This is the answer no writer is supposed to tell. Once that truth is known, wives will no longer tolerate husbands who refuse to go to work because ‘They’re in the middle of something.’ Husbands will demand that their wives come to bed instead of fooling around with the keyboard.

I made that last part up. Ignore it.

A couple of months ago, Gavin asked if I’d like to write a few pieces for this blog before Christmas. The equivalent of asking a kid if he wants to play. I do it anyway. The fun was in attempting some sort of focus. What would I write about? Certainly not politics or religion. Neither Gavin nor I need such trouble. I have too many odd ideas—or ideas at odds. Whatever.

But what I happened to be wondering at the time he asked was, ‘Why do I do this?’ I was writing then about a character who writes and this tautology has a certain appeal. Writers like to write about themselves, or alternatively, about the people they would like to be.

I think most of us like beginnings. We want to know how things start. Where they come from. What is the origin of Spiderman?

When I was a kid, the greatest television episode of all was ‘Enter the Lone Ranger.’ The origin of that masked hero. But don’t look it up. It is just not the same to 21st century eyes.

I had addressed some of this topic—why I wanted to write—in a novel I wrote about ten years ago. That effort doesn’t hold up any better than the origins of my childhood hero. But the elements are there. I knew that. So I thought I’d try to pan a little gold from the waters below that vein. Fools gold perhaps. Writer’s can never tell the difference because both glitter.

In any case, (in case you missed it), somewhere in those blogs is the reason I write. And I will have to keep on writing until I find that answer.

Previous posts:

Mr. Green of the Eastern News
An Embarrassment of Riches
A world in two bits (second bit)
My two bit universe
The Importance of Being Ernest
The Whale in the Room
Treasure Island


One Response to “On Writing On by Vincent McCaffrey”

  1. Jack Cheng on January 21st, 2011 7:03 pm

    I feel a need to just acknowledge that Vince is my favorite guest writer here (not that I don’t like the others!). I guess I better pick up his books but he’s dug himself a hole because first I have to read Moby Dick on his suggestion.


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