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Why write?

Got a question/comment about the business of writing or about the publishing industry? Here's your place to post it!
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun March 4th, 2012, 7:38 pm

I don't know about 'the worlds writers create'. In my case, half of my urge to write is because it gives me an excuse to research reality. I learn about history, and as a trainer, I am always looking for cause and effect, the domino chain of events that eventually led up to the world we now live in.

Studying history makes me an optimist. Despite the basic nature of man, mankind really IS getting better. I support NGOs in areas of the world where the 16th century is still alive and ill, but those corners are no longer the whole world, and most countries with the worst practices are at least viewed with dismay by the rest of the world.

For instance, this month Iran is getting a lot of flak for executing a pastor because he refuses to convert to Islam. In the 16th century, execution for matters of religious conscience was routine everywhere. Or take Thailand, trying to downplay it's reputation as the child-sex capital of the world. In Greek and Roman times, this behavior was both accepted and encouraged. So you see, we are getting much better.

When I write about the micro-world that I have researched, I try to give a glimpse of better things coming, and how each little thing is part of the great journey forward.

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Justin Swanton
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Location: Durban, South Africa
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Post by Justin Swanton » Tue March 6th, 2012, 6:03 pm

[quote=""MLE""]I don't know about 'the worlds writers create'. In my case, half of my urge to write is because it gives me an excuse to research reality. I learn about history, and as a trainer, I am always looking for cause and effect, the domino chain of events that eventually led up to the world we now live in.

Studying history makes me an optimist. Despite the basic nature of man, mankind really IS getting better. I support NGOs in areas of the world where the 16th century is still alive and ill, but those corners are no longer the whole world, and most countries with the worst practices are at least viewed with dismay by the rest of the world.

For instance, this month Iran is getting a lot of flak for executing a pastor because he refuses to convert to Islam. In the 16th century, execution for matters of religious conscience was routine everywhere. Or take Thailand, trying to downplay its reputation as the child-sex capital of the world. In Greek and Roman times, this behavior was both accepted and encouraged. So you see, we are getting much better.

When I write about the micro-world that I have researched, I try to give a glimpse of better things coming, and how each little thing is part of the great journey forward.[/quote]

The world is getting better?.....umm, I don't know. Contemporary vices are not those of the past, and vice versa, I'll grant that, but should a time traveller from the 16th century visit the present and survey the last 100 years of our history, what would he think? Colonial Imperialism (Heart of Darkness, Cry the Beloved Country), World War I, World War II, the Gulag, the Holocaust, the Cultural Revolution (unless we consider China a corner of the world), abortion, and so on.

We have had several decades of peace in the West, but I see no guarantee, other than a waning US military superiority, that that will last.

Re the 16th century, execution on religious grounds in the Renaissance era was not quite the bloodbath it is popularly portrayed. The Spanish Inquisition, for example, was a judicial process and kept meticulous records. In its 350 year history it executed less than 5000 people, about 14 a year. It needs to be born in mind that everyone at that time held that the moment a religious faith became numerically preponderant in a place, the government of that place had to uphold that religion exclusively, in other words, religious civil war. A rough contemporary parallel would be marxist guerrillas: they have a set of convictions, part of which involves taking active measures to make sure everyone else has them too. The Inquisition's job was to prevent the horrors of the German Thirty Years' war from reaching Spain. Its principle, admittedly imperfectly implemented, was that you could believe what you liked, but you could not propagate it.

I'm not writing this to be a spoilsport, just it struck a nerve in me. It could be living in Africa makes one rather cynical about overall human progress.
Last edited by Justin Swanton on Tue March 6th, 2012, 6:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Tue March 6th, 2012, 7:06 pm

In answer to your question Justin, it would depend on the author. My writing is just as likely to be counter to my views as revelatory about them. But I like experimenting with different viewpoints and styles, and as I understand it that's something most writers don't do.

I do agree that the world and mankind haven't really gotten better. We've made progress in many areas but overall I think things have been getting worse lately. Does progress perhaps run in cycles?

writerinthenorth
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Who do writers write for?

Post by writerinthenorth » Sat April 28th, 2012, 12:30 pm

May I extend your original question to the related one of Who do writers write for? or (more grammatically) For whom do writers write? I've given some thought to this question and have addressed it in an article here. I hope it adds something to the discussion.

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Justin Swanton
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Post by Justin Swanton » Sat April 28th, 2012, 2:46 pm

Interesting idea....write for the seeker. Just one difficulty I have with it, and that is the notion that humanity is seeking something definite at any given time. 'Humanity' is a mental concept: what exists is an awful lot of very different people with different backgrounds, upbringings, convictions, virtues, passions, vices, ambitions, priorities and so on.

The best one can do I think would be to choose a particular locale and see how the peculiar conditions there produce or frustrate certain aspirations in a cross-section of the local inhabitants. The point is to have some very deep and generic sources of human happiness or unhappiness given a concrete form since the circumstances that mould them are real.

Does this make sense?
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog

writerinthenorth
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Post by writerinthenorth » Sun April 29th, 2012, 5:13 pm

Yes, Justine, I agree. The notion of narrowing to a particular locale on the one hand gives us a focus while on the other opens out the creative possibilities provided by that setting.

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Tue May 1st, 2012, 3:26 pm

I write for myself. I write the kind of things I would like to read. There would be no point in writing something that doesn't interest me, just because it might interest someone else. If I did, no one would want to read those works. The reader can tell when there's no passion in the writing.

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Justin Swanton
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Post by Justin Swanton » Tue May 1st, 2012, 7:47 pm

[quote=""LoveHistory""]I write for myself. I write the kind of things I would like to read. There would be no point in writing something that doesn't interest me, just because it might interest someone else. If I did, no one would want to read those works. The reader can tell when there's no passion in the writing.[/quote]

You have a point. I'm busy with my sequel right now and what keeps me going is the fun of watching the characters develop and act in their own way. It has to come from the heart. If I spent my time wondering if my readership (all 86 of them) was going to like this, I probably would have given up three paragraphs in.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog

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