Tag Archives: masterpieces

A Masterpiece

Long ago, in Chico, California, I was with students in a taco shop after a creative writing class I taught at the state university a few blocks away.

A student, a black-haired beauty incongruously named Mord, said, “Writing is so hard, I wonder if it’s worth our time to maybe spend our whole lives writing stories and maybe not make any money with them.

“Why do you do it?” she asked.

“I have this dream,” I said, “that if I write enough stories and work hard enough, one of them will be a masterpiece.”

“Okay, but how will you know it’s a masterpiece?”

“Maybe I won’t,” I said. “But somebody who reads it might tell me it moved them to have a better life, or to see the world more clearly.”

Later, in Tucson, Arizona, Jonathon Penner, a writer and professor, asked, “How do you think we can draw the distinction between art and commercial or hack writing?”

I thought a while and said, “Beats me.” But over the years I’ve discovered a better response.

Art, I’ll contend, isn’t the creation but the process of giving all our powers to make a creation as superb and honest as we can. The creation may become what we call great art, good art, poor art, or lousy art. But art it is, if the creator gave it his or her all.

And our powers aren’t only about innate talent or developed skill, I’m convinced. The power we have, the one that can make our efforts transcend our talent and skill and birth a masterpiece, is the power to get inspired.

From Writing and the Spirit

Living As A Writer–What I Don’t Wish

I read quite a lot, mostly novels, which is what I most love to write. So when the thought came that of all the books I’ve read, even masterpieces and others that exhibit wit, style, plotting, wisdom or whatever I admire and may consider beyond my ability, I have never thought anything like: I wish I had written that novel.

Not that I’m immune to envy. Not hardly. The reason I don’t wish I had written those books is that they are not my stories. This may be nothing profound, only a psychological quirk, a symptom of narcissism or whatever mental illness I have, but it feels as if certain stories are mine and others simply aren’t.

Other creations, such as songs, inventions, even phrases, I often wish for one reason or another were mine. Stories, nope.

No doubt all of us who admit to being writers have been told countless times something like, “Boy, do I have a story for you.” I wonder how many of those offers have ever been acted upon.

A common response to the question “Where do you get your stories?” is: out of the newspaper. So apparently this feeling of mine isn’t universal.

Since I get older almost every day, and sometimes life wearies me, and I wonder if I’ll ever truly retire from this vocation, which at times feels hard and draining; whenever the question arises if I might survive long enough to retire, I conclude, sure, I can retire after I finish the stories currently residing at one depth or another in my mind. Right now, the count of novel length stories is eight.

Back to work.

 

Stories I Don’t Wish I Wrote

I read quite a lot, mostly novels, which is what I most love to write. So when the thought came that of all the books I’ve read, even masterpieces and others that exhibit wit, style, plotting, wisdom or whatever I admire and may consider beyond my ability, I have never thought anything like: I wish I had written that novel.

Not that I’m immune to envy. Not hardly. The reason I don’t wish I had written those books is that they are not my stories. This may be nothing profound, only a psychological quirk, a symptom of narcissism or whatever mental illness I have, but it feels as if certain stories are mine and others simply aren’t.

Other creations, such as songs, inventions, even phrases, I often wish for one reason or another were mine. Stories, nope.

No doubt all of us who admit to being writers have been told countless times something like, “Boy, do I have a story for you.” I wonder how many of those offers have ever been acted upon.

A common response to the question “Where do you get your stories?” is: out of the newspaper. So apparently this feeling of mine isn’t universal.

Since I get older almost every day, and sometimes life wearies me, and I wonder if I’ll ever truly retire from this vocation, which at times feels hard and draining; whenever the question arises if I might survive long enough to retire, I conclude, sure, I can retire after I finish the stories currently residing at one depth or another in my mind. Right now, the count of novel length stories is eight.

Back to work.