Do I have enough wisdom to be a good writer?


Reprising a post from October, 2009:
Dear Literary Ladies,
Sometimes I feel that I don’t have enough life experience to be a good writer. Everything I write, in hindsight, looks rather shallow and inauthentic. Should I wait until I’ve lived more fully, and gain some wisdom, before I bare my soul to the public in writing, or should I just plow ahead?


I wrote “Their Eyes Were Watching God” in Haiti. It was dammed up in me, and I wrote it in seven weeks. I wish I could write it again. In fact, I regret all of my books. It is one of the tragedies of life that one cannot have all the wisdom one is ever to possess in the beginning. Perhaps, it is just as well to be rash and foolish for a while. If writers were too wise, perhaps no books would be written at all. It might be better to ask yourself “Why?” afterwards than before. Anyway, the force from somewhere in Space which commands you to write in the first place, gives you no choice. You take up the pen when you are told, and write what is commanded. There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.

—Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autobiography, 1942

7 comments:

Ms B January 17, 2011 at 10:49 AM  

I live to write, I write to live...very simply it is all I know.

Patti DeNucci January 21, 2011 at 7:16 AM  

We all have a wealth of stories to share if we are willing to remember and share them authentically. Sometimes a memory or experience that seems ho-hum to you may be an inspiration for someone else. I've learned that these last 18 months as I've been writing my book and blog.

Sarah Allen January 21, 2011 at 9:08 AM  

This is wonderful. I've lived in plain old Utah my whole life, and have had the same question about my own lack of life experiences. This is inspiring, thank you.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Nava Atlas January 21, 2011 at 9:17 AM  

Thanks, Ms. B, Patti, and Sarah. Sarah, Don't forget, Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë rarely left their homes. They created classics from their personal reality. Willa Cather became successful when she wrote about the experiences she grew up with in Red Cloud, Nebraska (such as O Pioneers! and My Antonia) instead of trying to write like Henry James, as she started out doing. It's not so much about the cliché of "write what you know," but starting from where you are. Your voice and experience widen with each small success.

Vintage Reading January 28, 2011 at 5:03 PM  

I like the thought that if writers were too wise, maybe books would never be written at all. Very perceptive.

Janett Brown July 28, 2011 at 12:00 AM  

I think that writing needs a great imagination. For example, william Faulkner has created a new county in his writings. I also think that experience is important in developing one's imagination.

seule771 February 4, 2014 at 8:10 PM  

I never did understand the phrase: "Truth is stranger than fiction" if ever there was paradox y there it is. I mean to say: she spoke truthfully. Regrets come later or perhaps never.

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Wouldn't you love to get advice from  classic women authors on writing and the writer's life? Here I fancifully pose the questions, and the Literary Ladies answer in their own words.

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