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Scott Lax Blog

Avoid the Oil Spill of Twitter and Blogging about Nonsense and Nothingness

How will you know when you're a good writer? My experience tells me you won't ever know. Because the better you get, the more you know you don't know.

I've seen good writers turn into not good writers because of a few successes. It happens to writers like it happens to athletes or CEOs of companies or spouses: Overconfidence, arrogance, and entitlement.

It's spread over the Internet like an oil spill: preening to a faceless mass of "followers" (as if bloggers and Twitterers, by nature of their ability to pour out seemingly endless drivel, trivialities and snark, are actually accomplishing something), typers spew ungrammatical and baseless globs of words.

What, exactly, are those writers accomplishing? They rant, snipe and moan about their lives or professions; but what does this have to do with writing? Maybe it saves them therapy, but it's not making them writers, anymore than me tightening a leaky faucet makes me a plumber. I don't know what it is; maybe it's some 21st Century version of Andy Warhol's 15 minutes of fame, except it's a virtual, ethereal eternity of simply being known. For whatever that's worth. Is being known worthwhile in and of itself? As a writer, would you rather be like Lindsay Lohan or an excellent, but little known stage actor? Which do you think would give you more satisfaction, more sense of worth in your life and art? If the answer is the former, then type away and let it out there unchecked; if the latter, hone your craft.

This blog is for those who wish to write, or at least learn a little bit about the writing life. I don't have many answers; I may not have any at all. But I can share what little I've learned about writing.

If you want to write for publication, or write better than you do, you'll have to learn the craft; study the art, practice writing. Read, write, edit, take classes, do what you need to do. But don't delude yourself that pouring out your observations about your job or home life or politics - without controlling principles, without form, without evidence, without skill, without art, for goodness sake - is literary writing. It's not.

Avoid those that spill the oil and muck up the sea of intelligence in which we try to swim. A lot of people are writing away, writing thousands, millions of words - and in some sense, in the sense that they're writing instead of mugging someone on the street - I suppose that's a healthy thing. But it's not writing as art; it demeans writing as art. Throwing a burger on a grill doesn't make you a trained chef. that takes years and years of hard work and sacrifice. Throwing some words in a Tweet don't make you a writer.

Much journalism is going down - or has already gone down - a dark and stupid road to oblivion. Don't go down that road if you want to write fiction and nonfiction that actually makes a difference. Be a writer if that's what you want to be.  Read More