The Writerly Attitude

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The Writerly Attitude

Here's one from guest tipster Pedro de Alcantara:

"To be a writer is a 24/7 occupation, although writing itself takes only a fraction of your day. Being a writer doesn't really mean to write for a living, or even to write at all, but to think as a writer, to see the world as a writer, to be in the world as a writer—in short, to have a writerly attitude. It means to love words; to see every human being, man, woman, and child as a character in a drama, unfolding in front of your eyes on an infinite stage; to sense people's motivations, their personal narratives, their back stories; to sense everyone's character arc, friends', colleagues', strangers'; to sense foretelling in a gesture, a word, an action; to sense dramatic tension and relaxation in the unfolding of an event; to sense myth and stereotype and archetype in people and in their interactions; to love analysis, synthesis, description, explanation, condensation, to understand that words can do anything and everything you want them to do.

"For a writer, to watch a Simpsons rerun is to study the three-act structure, the interweaving of plot and subplot, the unfolding of story as conflict. Every character in The Simpsons has an antagonist. Even Maggie: hers is the Baby With One Eyebrow. The writer wants to re-write all that falls under his eyes—cereal boxes, street signs, slogans, even medicine labels. The writer never stops being a writer: at night, he dreams of Jungian archetypes, Freudian erotica, and plain old horror movies.

"The writerly attitude is a precondition to all writing, and the serious writer is forever sharpening it. Read, eavesdrop, spy. Become a psychologist, historian, and philosopher rolled into one. Travel to experience other cultures and their differing sense of the human theater. When the writerly attitude is in place, the pages will flow out of you like maple syrup out of Vermont."



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