A slow art

SICHA: I meet a lot of people in their twenties, and they’re concerned. They want to get published, and I think, “Well, hopefully you’re going to live a little while. Don’t walk in front of any trucks.”

LE GUIN: I don’t think most people write very good narrative prose until they’re in their later twenties. Writing is a slow art. Music can be such a fast and early art. A good musician can be just terrific at 16. But how many writers are there … I mean, even Keats is still blundering around at 16. By his early twenties, of course, he’s writing immortal poetry, but there aren’t a lot of Keatses, really. There’s where you get “gift” to a degree that it’s kind of like a miracle. You can’t use the Keatses to talk about writing as a craft or an art or a practice or a profession. The geniuses—they’re off there, doing their lovely thing.

SICHA: They mess up the scale for the rest of us.

LE GUIN: That’s okay. You just have to realize you’re not going to get there, but so what? You can still do beautiful work.

SICHA: There’s room for plenty of people.

Choire Sicha interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin

The long game is no fun. I want instant gratification!!

I don’t like to call things ‘resolutions’ because of connotations around the word (so tightly paired with inevitable failure) but obviously that’s the right word for: This is the year I get over my weird reluctance to pursue the sort of traditional avenues of improving writing. It’s a talent, but it’s a craft. There’s a certain amount you can learn from doing the thing, and there’s some you can learn from talking to others who are doing the thing. But I guess I admit that there’s gotta be more to learn from the right ‘traditional’ sources (i.e., ones that aren’t trying to nudge me into writing rainwater-in-an-ashtray literary fiction. I’m fine with a certain amount of that, but for god’s sake, give me magic too).

So I’ve got this list of books to read. Some of ’em will be disappointing; some’ll be great, I hope. We’ll see what else might happen.