||[Apr. 28th, 2008|10:59 am]
International Bon Vivant and Raconteur
Publishing scams. Yoga-for-better-writing classes. Vanity publishing. There are so many creative ways to separate writers from their money that it has almost become an art form in itself. To whit, I found this ad in the program of an off-off-Broadway show:
Authentic Writing is a movement that believes writing is an art and that all art depends upon getting at the artist's deepest stories. We also believe that, as Paul Gaugin pointed out, art is either revolution (as in Authentic Writing) or plagiarism (as in the conventional literary/academic world). Authentic Writing is led by two people who found it necessary to go beyond success as published writers and editors to follow their art. They now conduct writing workshops and weekend writing retreats in NYC and Woodstock, plus missionary ventures in places as near as New England and as distant as Calabria, Italy. www.AuthenticWriting.com.
Oh God. Read the second sentence again and marvel at the brass balls it takes to call your own "movement" revolutionary and every other bit of writing out there plagiarism. (Plagiarizing what? Who knows! Revolutionaries don't have to explain themselves! Up against the wall, plebe!)
Now, I know a couple of people who have taken the Authentic Writing workshops and both claim it helped their writing a lot. That's awesome. In my opinion, anything that helps inspire or hone your writing is a good thing. Usually. It's just that I don't think anyone should have to pay as much as $860 for a workshop to be told you're doing it wrong because you're not drawing solely from your life experiences. Besides, writers can start their own workshops for free. And when you do, you won't ever have to listen to stuff like this:
Authentic Writing maintains that writing – like all art – is an alive intuitive process not strangled by thinking.
The best writing emerges when allowed to take its own course, without imposed plans, expectations or – worst of all – forced resolutions.
The Authentic Writing workshops place no value on standard academic criticism and make a point of not making didactic suggestions to the writer about what to do next. Nothing could be more detrimental to the organic, life-giving process of writing.
Because you certainly don't want anyone telling you your writing has to, oh, at least have an internal sense of logic or a satisfying resolution, and you certainly don't want first readers who can tell you how to make a story better!
Oh wait, yes you do. Too bad Authentic Writing doesn't believe in those things. But with your own workshop you can come up with your own philosophy, one that's just as valid as Authentic Writing's. Maybe something along the lines of We are at our most creatively open when our souls are satisfied with the delicious taste of Cheetos.
Folks, writing is not philosophy. It's both a craft and an art, yes, but you don't need a philosophy to be a writer. Companies like Authentic Writing take the old adage "write what you know" and twist it into something it was never meant to be. In truth, it means you should draw upon your own experiences so you know how to make your characters react believably to what is happening around them. It does not mean you're only allowed to use true events from your life in your writing, even if that's what Authentic Writing espouses.
By their own philosophy, Authentic Writing would have a world where there is no science fiction, no fantasy, no horror, no thrillers, no mysteries, no romance. Only memoir after memoir about life at the country house where your best friend was the family driver, and how difficult your years at Vassar were because everyone else pretended not to be rich and hated you for having money. (Because guess who the only people who can spend up to $860 to "learn" how to write are? But it's okay, those filthy poor people would only crank out plagiaristic science fiction anyway!)
Keep your money, folks. Start your own workshops. And if you can't, find ones that suit your needs instead of trying to tell you what and how you ought to be writing (places like Clarion, Odyssey and the Borderlands Boot Camp spring to mind as good workshops, at least for genre writers). Because the real authentic writing comes from your own interests -- and that can be science fiction, fantasy, horror, mysteries, you name it, just as easily as it can be a memoir about how your classmates teased you at Dalton because your parents didn't drive the right kind of car.