Conroy, Frank,eds. The Eleventh Draft: Craft And The Writing Life From The Iowa Writers’ Workshop. New York : HarperCollins, 1999. Print.
SCOTT SPENCER - THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING GOOD AND BEING A GOOD WRITER
Tact is wonderful in a friend, and an ability to carry secrets with you into the grave is surely worthy of our admiration. But I can’t think of any writer who s read of his or her tact. So, let’s not take any vows never to divulge family secrets. If you’re worried about being cut out of a will, you should just wait for you inheritance and then start writing. With the sudden prominence of the memoir and the personal essay, a certain tell-all mentality has become somewhat fashionable, but what has become even more fashionable is criticizing the tell-all mentality. Writing about your husband’s repulsive nighttime habits or your mother’s annihilating vanity might not, in the end, make very interesting reading for those not in your immediate circle, but an inability to ever express the most strange, scandalous, and upsetting things you know will make writing like cooking before Prometheus.
If we’re going to ask someone to take the time to read what we’ve written, there is a promise on our part implicit in the transaction, a pledge that we’re finally willing to risk everything — peace of mind, reputation — to repay the commitment they are making to our work. In order to make good on that commitment, we need to be fearless, unsparing, and just a little bit feverish.
In life, a certain degree of conformity is wise, humble, and it also saves a lot of time. In writing, however, the less conformity the better — except, perhaps, when it comes to spelling and punctuation. Literature welcomes the offbeat, the unreasonable, the furious, the wounded, the salacious. Literature believes in talking dogs, in love worth dying for, ghosts, and Grand Inquisitors. If what we believe in is the measured response, a balanced diet and plenty of rest, keeping our deepest fears to ourselves, and not being the one left standing when ten people are scrambling to sit in the remaining nine chairs, then we must recognize these impulses for what they are — guides to a happy life, but detriments to writing.