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Friday, April 29, 2011

Writing Should Make You a Better Person

Are writers good people - are they happier, wiser, and kinder than the general run of humanity? Do they have whiter, straighter teeth?
They should.  After all, they're up to their elbows in the human condition every day - not just as spectators or even participants, but fashioners - pitting desire against circumstance in pleasing arrangements of rise and fall.  We should know better than anyone what Man is.  We ought to be the tenderest most humane people on the planet.  Failing that, we ought to be the blackest and bitterest of misanthropes. There should be no in between.
Are writers good people?
I'm not entitled to say because I'm a very poor judge. I'm alway starstruck in the presence of writers: these people go off in private - like a tiger to lay her egg - and make stuff! They come up with things! Look at that: a tiger's egg! So I can't really tell what sort of people writers are - they're always obscured in the dim glow of my admiration.
In The Blues Brothers, when asked who they are, one of them - Elrod, I think - says, "We're musicians.  We're on a mission from God." It's funny because the statement is factually true - they're raising money to save a Catholic orphanage - but it sounds as if they're doing God's will just being musicians.
This - this absurd, half joking megalomania - is how it feels to be a writer, at least for me. There is this notion, delusional and selfish, but sincere, that creativity is evidence of some Higher Purpose, that you must create, that there is a path laid out for you, a destiny, and not fulfilling it disapoints some greater being than yourself.
Nonsense, of course - but if I believe - however irrationally - that God wants me to be a writer, shouldn't that make me a better person? Shouldn't I at least strive to be a better person?  Even if I were the most total of total atheists, oughtn't I as a writer, strive to be the best writer I can be, and doesn't that entail in some corrolary way being the best self I can be?
So even writers who are utter schmucks and heels - and there are a few of them, come to think of it - presumably are slightly less schmucky and heelesque than they would be if they weren't writers.
Meanwhile, if I want to be a better writer, I should start by simply being better.

PS - Come see me at Eagle Eye Books in Decatur Georgia June 11. To RSVP click http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=y8wgqkfab&oeidk=a07e3rn8bi4ed51740b

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