I think I’ve made it pretty clear in earlier posts that I think people should write what they need to write or want to write, not what they think they should write. Occasionally on one of the writing forums I’ll run across someone who is reveling in the fact that they’ve written something so different and so awful that it’ll shock people.
I generally roll my eyes when I see that, because a lot of times I think that the person who is bragging in that way wasn’t writing for themselves, but was instead writing for other people. And I think that most people who do that fall flat in some way.
I don’t think they see it that way, but I do. I suspect that most people who have written truly earth-shattering, edgy books were writing much more for themselves than to discomfort the masses. And it’s the fact that they were writing for themselves first and foremost that let them fully express an idea or vision.
Anyway. This is one of those issues where I’m fairly inarticulate, so I figured I’d point you to the thoughts of someone with a lifetime of experience who discusses it with far more intelligence and grace than I ever will.
So, read Ursula K. Le Guin, Dangerous Writing, Dangerous Cover Copy.
And for those of you who won’t click on the link, here are the quotes from the article that made it into my quotes document:
“Truly complacent people often do not read at all, because almost all reading is likely to tell you something you didn’t know and thus upset your complacency.”
“Serious writers want to do something beyond asserting power over their audience, beyond self-satisfaction, beyond personal gain — even though they may want all those things very much.”
“I think the mystery of art lies in this, that artists’ relationship is essentially with their work — not with power, not with profit, not with themselves, not even with their audience.”
“To writers whose essential relationship is with their work, the shock, distress, and fear their work may cause their readers to feel are means to an end, their only way of saying what they have to say. They will use these dangerous means carefully, sparingly, at need. The effect can be immediate, long-lasting, and profound. It can last several thousand years.”