If you have a “passion for writing” and never do it, you don’t have a passion for writing

I signed up for writing-related Meetup.com notifications, and one said this:

Do you have a passion for writing but find it hard to carve out time to engage in the practice of it? It can be hard to find a local writing group convenient for your schedule. If you love to write and would like to be surrounded by others who motivate you, this is the place for you

If “you have a passion for writing,” you don’t need other people around you, any more than if you have a passion for masturbation you need a group wank. You just do it, and masturbation might arguably be the world’s most common leisure activity (among the young at the very least).

IMG_1269For 99% of people, if you “find it hard to carve out time to engage in the practice of [writing],” the solution is simple: redirect time spent on TV and Facebook to writing. If I recall correctly, William Gibson said that he doesn’t write all the time; he’s merely reallocated the time most people spend watching TV to writing. I’m not arguing that would-be writers should never watch TV, but I am arguing that needing extrinsic motivation is, in most circumstances, inferior to having intrinsic motivation.

People also may underestimate how much can be done in small blocks of time. This post, for example, has only taken me a couple of minutes. I haven’t been posting much because I’ve been self-editing a novel and writing proposals. Blogging gets crowded out by those activities. Yet it’s still possible for me to write a short post that says something substantive in about 15 minutes. Cory Doctorow has said in various places that he writes 250 words of fiction every day. A “typical” novel is about 80,000 – 90,000 words. At 250 words per day, you can write a novel in 320 days.

If you have a “passion” for writing, you can express it every day, just like many of you love yourselves every day. You don’t need a group to do it. The need for a group is identical to the need for excuses.

I’m not opposed to writers’ groups in all shapes and forms, and the right group at the right time could in principle provide valuable feedback for the right person (and the right person could give valuable feedback to others). But the raw work should be done alone, and the door opened to others when that work is done.

Hilarity in Delaware: Christine O’Donnell and J.R.R. Tolkien, sitting in a tree…

As almost everyone now knows, Christine O’Donnell won the Republican Senate primary in an upset, and, as almost everyone now knows and will forget six months from now, she’s also unintentionally hilarious. One of her better moments comes from a 2003 essay on Tolkien discussed in “The Republican Senate candidate’s analysis of “Lord of the Rings” reveals her views on feminine roles.” Unfortunately, Salon’s copy of O’Donnell’s essay has been removed, but not before I caught this bit: “Even as I researched this article, the only writings on Tolkien and feminism I found were on websites for freebee high school essays.”

As Jason Fisher said in an e-mail, “Not a promising opening. When the only writings you can find are high-school level, it’s a strong indication that your research techniques are only high-school level.” Indeed: by 2003, Jane Chance had published extensively on Tolkien. Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World came out in 2002. Tolkien Studies hadn’t been founded yet, but a lot of the material cited by it stretches back decades.

Even if you couldn’t find that material for whatever reason, the number of books about gender, gender construction, and gender symbolism in fiction is simply staggering; much of it could be and is being productively applied to Tolkien.

I sometimes say to my students that there is a world of ideas beyond the Internet or not available on it. They often don’t believe me, or if they do, don’t act on that belief. Now at least there’s a concrete example of failing to act on that belief in action.

Since humor is in the air like pheromones, it’s worth pointing to the Borowitz Report: “Delaware Masturbators March Against O’Donnell.” Where’s that parody coming from? See Christine O’Donnell, masturbation socialist on Slate.

I seldom comment on politics because I think most political discussions are really about people signaling what they perceive their values to be, not about the exchange of real information or ideas about the world beyond the individual espousing a particular point of view. But the opportunity to do so here is too rich to ignore and has led to a very amusing juxtaposition of post tags, and with O’Donnell, even Frank Rich gets into the spirit, writing for the New York Times:

But history will always remember her for taking a fearless stand against masturbation, the one national pastime with more fans than baseball.

Our great country has truly come a very long way if being anti-masturbation is now coded as being anti-American. In a world where drug stores are selling sex toys, how could it not be?

Every so often politicians emerge for whom pot shots are the optimal method of engagement; Slate writes from the left and so mostly attacks Republicans, but this bit is pretty hilarious:

And I guess it was those terrible experiences that led her to spend her life telling girls never to feel lust, which is a sensible and realistic thing to recommend.

Just say no to fun has been working well for centuries, whether from the early Progressives on Prohibition, the modern-day versions of the, or the anti-sex Republicans. Telling people not to feel lust is pretty close to telling people not to feel hungry; sure, you find the occasional monk who manages to fast for very long periods of time and primarily eats tea, bread, and fruit. The rest of us, however, will ask you to pass the potatoes, be generous with the wine, and ask whether you’ve tried the sumptuous French-Vietnamese fusion place up the street, the one with the amazing Pho.

Every so often, my students imply (usually they don’t say it outright) that English classes don’t matter, that what they learn in school doesn’t matter, and that they’ll succeed regardless. And every so often, the world offers up a story that implies they may be right.Christine O’Donnell is one such example.

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