Monday, January 11, 2010

A pause for some writing commentary

Recall the scene from The Jerk,when Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin) discovers he has rhythm, and so decides to strike out on his own. Well, in Friday's blog Susan Weiner discusses rhythm and writing. I love writing and therefore love to read about writing, and would argue that I could probably stand some rhythm.

In my opinion, there are two types of writers:
  • good story tellers, who focus on the story, not the writing
  • good writers, who focus on the writing.
Examples of the latter are Herman Melville ("Moby Dick"), Toni Morrison ("Beloved") and Fyodor Dostoevsky ("The Idiot"). I happen to be listening to "The Idiot" right now (a long book that translates into more than 20 hours of recording), and am enjoying immensely. To write a blog, memos, or even newsletters hardly requires the skill of a Melville, Morrison, or Dostoevsky ... if it did, it might take weeks just to get a single post posted. But good writing still matters. I have seen so much BAD writing that when I see good, or even better, excellent writing, I'm impressed.

Good writers are good readers. One must read often, preferably of good writers, to pick up ideas and perhaps some rhythm. I don't recall who it was, but someone said that good writers write one word at a time: I believe this is why it takes Morrison years to put a book together: her writing is exceptional. Individuals who can crank out a book a week may be good storytellers, but they hardly (in my opinion) come close to the level of these great authors.

p.s., I'm listening to The Idiot because (a) I've owned the book for more than 20 years and haven't made an progress, (b) subscribe to, which provides me a book a month, and (c) I'd much rather listen to a book being skillfully narrated than the drivel one often hears on the radio.


  1. David, I'm delighted to be referenced in this blog post. It's a great compliment from someone who truly cares about writing. Thank you!

  2. Susan, I love writing. I'd love to have more time to do it. I like to slip these thoughts in once in a while. Thanks for your comments! Also, I enjoy your blog ... excellent points are often provided.


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