Garrison's button

Obviously, somebody or something pushed it. Garrison Keillor’s latest essay at Salon is titled: Writers, stop whining.

Not that I disagree with his general premise. We are a whiny lot. For my part, I try not to, but sometimes it squeaks out of me anyway.

A good bit from a very grouchy essay:

The biggest whiners are the writers who get prizes and fellowships for writing stuff that’s painful to read, and so they accumulate long résumés and few readers and wind up teaching in universities where they inflict their gloomy pretensions on the young. Writers who write for a living don’t complain about the difficulty of it. It does nothing for the reader to know you went through 14 drafts of a book, so why mention it?

The truth, young people, is that writing is no more difficult than building a house, and the only good reason to complain is to discourage younger and more talented writers from climbing on the gravy train and pushing you off.

Why does this make me feel guilty? Have I shoved somebody off a train lately? Maybe this is that well known cop-in-the-rearview-mirror syndrome. No matter how well you’ve been driving, a flush of panic. You are sure you’ve done something awful and just put it out of your head, but the cop will now wave the evidence in your face. Until she passes you and zips off into the sunset to scare the bejesus out of somebody else.

Garrison Keillor is in my rearview mirror just at this moment, and my palms are sweaty.

6 Replies to “Garrison's button”

  1. Sara~
    It was the rest of the article that cracked me up. According to him I am at the sensible age where I am between comfortable shoes, having learned to properly grill fish,listening to old jazz, and crossing into the “mortgage years”. But not old enough to find myself weeping at graduations! Very funny. I had a great laugh. No wonder…I have been listening to the PHC for 20 years now!!!

  2. Whining? Let’s see… Tracks coming out in June, QofS in October. Probably doing a whole lot of wordsmithing, editing, other non-creative writing, dealing with editors, publishers, other stuff that may not be any fun at all. I’m guessing you’re in a very tense time, but whining? Nope! My answer to everything: have a chocolate binge, then see if the sun is a little brighter. Maybe write a pome(!) on chocolate.

  3. Hey sorry but Garrison sounds a little whiny himself in his essay – and frankly? yes sometimes readers do need to realize that a writer (like any creative person) does not just “poop” a novel out of their ass or, like Rocky, “pull one out of my sleeve” – it takes work. As an eg, Diana Gabaldon frequently reminds her impatient public of how long her books are and hence how much time they take her. I know – having read all of yours except “Homestead” – how well they are written and how detailed and painstaking the minor characters are (BTW, still not thrilled that Nicholas was killed off – any guy who can name the bears who pillate his apple trees is a pretty cool guy but hey – – ) and how long that process must take you and how painstaking it is. And I’m sorry, I suspect building a house is a lot easier so I disagree with Garrison there – it’s physical versus mental and emotional – you know when you’re done and you know immediately if it’s going to stand firm or is a “piece of shite” – and when you’re done hammering for the day you leave – you don’t think about it in the middle of the night when you get up for a pee and wonder “did I write that clearly/well/”? etc. (and if Garrison is at the point where his writing feels like building a house has he become formulaic?? Is it that damn easy for him? I’m not even a creative writer for a living but I have a job that requires creative input – I’m a lawyer and I tell you that’s not like building houses and it’s not a job you leave behind at the end of the day (see my getting up in the middle of the night to pee comment). Also loved your last couple of posts – I don’t think you whine – I do like hearing your struggles with the process – and I have had the comment “Brains, we need Brains!”” running thru my head for days now – and have to share it with my hubby when he’s back.

    Just thought I’d weigh in on this one – I read your posts but don’t frequently join in.


  4. Just realized it should be “pillage his apple trees” – don’t know what the heck “pillate an apple tree” would mean – ooops.

Comments are closed.