Is Writing for the Special Ones?

Last week, the Swedish academy gave the biggest prize in writing to one Mario Vargas Llosa, a controversial Peruvian writer who has not only written about politics, but also dabbled into politics in a narrowly lost presidential run.
Chinua Achebe is an icon of African Literature (Internet Photo)
Chinua Achebe is an icon of African Literature (Internet Photo)

Last week, the Swedish academy gave the biggest prize in writing to one Mario Vargas Llosa, a controversial Peruvian writer who has not only written about politics, but also dabbled into politics in a narrowly lost presidential run.

The reasons of his award, the academy said, was “his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat,” which in simple English means that the plots of his stories succeed in portraying how people can ‘resist, revolt and defeat.’ He piped another son of the soil, Ngugi Wa’thiongo, a Kenyan, who was an overwhelming favourite to win this year’s award and the prestigious 10 million kronor, or $1.5 million.

One would ask, why wouldn’t anyone want to write if they stand a chance to get that kind of money?  For starters, it is never about the money! Writing, like any form of art is first, a passion that can drive itself. It needs no other incentive other than the passion to write or create sentences, phrases out of experiences, imaginations and thoughts. 

Most writers never make any money out of their writing and those who do have to live the rest of their lives under constant scrutiny as readers seek to understand more the authors of the stories they read. Others have written books and become famous, but behind the glamour have lived in the rut because their writing forgot to bring them money along with the fame.

Writing can result from a lot of things. Some writers write to deal with their emotions while some do it for the sake of putting a story that had been stuck within them, and kept tugging at their fingers to put it out of their systems.

I have always thought that writing is pretty dissolute kind of career. Writers often have to live their character lives in order to produce a masterpiece.

They live in their characters; they speak their characters, they move, eat, drink, and sleep their stories. Many writers have to speak their dialogue aloud in order to feel whether it sounds natural or normal. In this case, writers often are portrayed like geeks of mad men for delving into their world of imagination and living it.

If a reader feels consoled or comforted, that’s all to the good, but it’s not what writing is about. Writing is about crafting sentences and building them into paragraphs and building the paragraphs into arguments and narratives.
 In a 2002 interview with The Guardian, Llosa gave some insight on his view of the writer’s role in society: “I think a writer has some kind of responsibility at least to participate in the civic debate. I think literature is impoverished, if it becomes cut from the main agenda of people, of society, of life.” There are any number of reasons why writing and reading of books survives even in this century where technology keeps throwing up gadgets that would make enjoying a story easier and less engaging than in a book.

Jonathan Franzen, the only writer to make a Time Magazine cover in a decade, thinks about it is that books can do things, socially useful things, that other media can’t, that reading, in its quietness and sustained concentration, is the opposite of busyness.

“We are so distracted by and engulfed by the technologies we’ve created, and by the constant barrage of so-called information that comes our way, that more than ever to immerse yourself in an involving book seems socially useful,” Franzen says.

“The place of stillness that you have to go to write, but also to read seriously, is the point where you can actually make responsible decisions, where you can actually engage productively with an otherwise scary and unmanageable world.”

Anton Chekov, as a Russian short-story writer, playwright and physician, considered to be one of the greatest short-story writers in the history of world literature, thought that a writer is not a confectioner, a cosmetic dealer, or an entertainer.

He is a man who has signed a contract with his conscience and his sense of duty. He added that his business as a writer is to be talented, that is, to be capable of selecting the important moments from the trivial ones.

It’s about time for writers particularly those who are genuine artists to recognize that in this world you cannot figure out everything. Just have a writer who the crowds trust, be courageous enough and declare that he does not understand everything, and that alone will represent a major contribution to the way people think, a long leap forward.

So back to the basic question – is writing for the special ones? Anyone can write a book. Writing, as opposed to publishing, requires almost no financial or physical resources.

A pen, a paper and effort are all that has been required for hundreds of years. You can write at home, during lunch time, at night even in prison. A book is just a bunch of writing. Anyone can write a book. It might suck or be incomprehensible, but it will still be a book. Writing a good book, compared to a bad one, involves a lot of hard work.

The desire to write a good book will drive you to learn from the art of writing. It is as simple as that – the desire to learn, the effort to write and the finesse to polish the final draft into an endearing work of art.

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