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The writer will see you now

I once heard a writer on a panel say, in all seriousness, “Why are people so sure they can sit down and write a book? You wouldn't expect to be able to do brain surgery the first time you tried it.” I like writers. I consider myself a writer, but I have to say writing is not brain surgery. For one thing, no one dies if you get it wrong. For another, the graduation between writing well and writing badly is a sliding scale with an infinite numbers of points on it— as opposed to say, “patient survives and is not paralyzed” versus “dead patient.”

I think mostly the guy was just feeling the lack of respect that comes from writing genre. He wanted to think that writing a book is as hard as removing a tumor from someone's frontal lobe. But the fact is, the act of putting words on paper is something almost everyone learns how to do, even if they never try to write a book. Most new writers might produce poor to middling' work the first few books, but there are some who sit down and write a masterpiece the first time they try. They are few and far between but they happen. Ever heard of any brain surgeons who skipped medical school?

I thought of this because at the moment, I am re-writing an older book that my writing group gave me some new ideas for, and in some ways, it is like surgery— not brain surgery but more like multiple organ transplants. I'm moving the guts of the story around and grafting on a few new parts while amputating others. I have to figure out which parts to keep, which to move, and which to toss, and then create in some new chunks to stitch it all together in a way that results in a live patient— er, story. In some ways, it's painful; I wish I had an anesthetic.

But it's still not brain surgery.





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Comments

mtlawson
Jun. 10th, 2010 04:28 am (UTC)
“Why are people so sure they can sit down and write a book? You wouldn't expect to be able to do brain surgery the first time you tried it.”

Sigh.

I get what the guy is saying, but at the same time there are far fewer people in the world who can perform brain surgery than can write. Writing is far more easily learned than brain surgery. True, exceptional writers are hard to find, but that still an order of magnitude away from brain surgery.
karen_w_newton
Jun. 10th, 2010 12:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I thought he really chose the wrong analogy. It might have gone better to say, "Just because you can throw a baseball doesn't mean you can play in the majors." The brain surgery thing just made him sound whiney.

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