On Novel Writing
In an interview with Bill Moyers on the PBS program,
Faith and Reason, author Jeanette Winterson made
the following comment:
As a writer, you're always something of a vandal,
you know, you're a tomb raider. You go in there and
take the things that already exist, and drag them out
and dress them up differently and there is a sense in
which you're a thief. It's no wonder that writers are
ruled by Mercury, the god of thieves and liars…
Mercury of the double-tongue.
And so there is this sense in which you will always
steal and take for yourself the things that you need,
but then you bring them back into the light, you dust
them down; you put them out again for people to find
in a different way. The whole thing about myths is
that they need to stay fluid; they need to keep
moving. They need to be dynamic, and that is why we
can go on retelling them, so that what is valuable
is passed on from generation to generation across
time through consciousness.
It is sentiments like this that illustrate how crucial
it is that we, as a culture, provide a rich store of
"common treasure" for our artists, writers and poets to
I was going to go on a copyright rant, but that
detracts from the depth of this quote. Besides, the
free culture movement (sparked by Lessig)
has been thoroughly discussed (see this lecture if
you are unfamiliar with the term).†
† It does bother me that every time Mickey Mouse's copyright is up, the Disney Corporation greases a few palms, and the copyright date is magically extended.
But November is National Novel Writing Month,
and I have a couple of friends who will be attempting
to write an entire novel during this month… or at
least, a good chunk of it.
I, sadly, will not.
I think it would be great fun to dedicate that much
concerted effort and time towards such a project, but
novels just aren't my thing… either reading or writing
them. Don't get me wrong, I love reading a good novel,
but it is like desert when I feel I haven't finish my
dinner, so I seldom get to them.
But I do love stories, and I especially love thieving
them. Every night my daughter asks me for a story, and
so I quickly enter the cultural story tombs and grab a
relic or two to put in a new story.
In fact, for more than two years, I've been telling parts of the same story. A story how I, as a younger
and more adventurous lad, had a series of travels
through a more magical world. So every night, she says
the same thing, "Please tell me the rest of your
So perhaps a novel is in me after all. Granted, it would
be a kids novel, as I'm sure I couldn't make my
interactions with djinni and dragons interesting to
my contemporaries. Hrm… ok, I'll think about it.
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