October 26, 2011

WT Vollmann on the "rules" for writing (1990)

Here are William T. Vollmann's rules for writing:

     1. We should never write without feeling.
     2. Unless we are much more interesting than we imagine we are, we should strive to feel not only about Self, but also about Other. Not the vacuum so often between Self and Other. Not the unworthiness of Other. Not the Other as a negation or eclipse of Self. Not even about the Other exclusive of Self, because that is but a trickster-egoist's way of worshiping Self secretly. We must treat Self and Other as equal partners. (Of course I am suggesting nothing new. I do not mean to suggest anything new. Health is. more important than novelty.)
     3. We should portray important human problems.
     4. We should seek for solutions to those problems. Whether or not we find them, the seeking will deepen the portrait.
     5. We should know our subject, treating it with the respect with which Self must treat Other. We should know it in all senses, until our eyes are bleary from seeing it, our ears ring from listening to it, our muscles ache from embracing it, our gonads are raw from making love to it. (If this sounds pompous, it is perhaps because I wear thick spectacles.)
     6. We should believe that truth exists.
     7. We should aim to benefit others in addition to ourselves

From here.  As with any set of rules, you don't really have to listen to any of them.  But you can if you want to.  Especially if you're stuck in grad school and feel like your writing has gone to hell with all of the formulaic grant proposals you have been working on.  Just an idea that I pulled out of thin air.  Nothing to see here...

1 comment:

sofia wahnon said...

It makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks!