Why Writer Worship is a Waste of Time

Writer worship is a waste of time and needs to stop
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Since the ninth grade, school instructs us to read the classics, books knighted as literary genius for generations. Professors build careers around talking about one writer or a handful of paperbacks. And we’re taught not to criticize the novels or essays, but instead to search for symbolic evidence as to why these books are perfect.

Red lips kiss

Credit: nobacks.com

In other words, we learn how to kiss the butts of writers, many already long dead.

It’s not that these writers don’t deserve a lot of cred. Some of the greatest books I’ve read are cliché classics. Just look at my Goodreads.

So how are my reading habits different than an English class syllabus? Because I don’t read the books to worship the writers.

In school, we’re assigned to write papers as to why the symbolism spoke to the greater good or why the writer reinvented the use of X, Y, Z since the Cave Ages.

You know, the obvious stuff.

But classic books aren’t holy texts. And these writers aren’t gods.

Stop sign

Credit: blog.maseratiraleigh.com

I’m going to say it: We need to stop all this writer worship.

Wouldn’t it be great to instead have a classroom discussion challenging the common opinion about the text? To say that the protagonist is really evil, that the (pages and pages of) scenery description doesn’t contribute much to the plot, or that the book really just sucks.

We’ve all wanted to say that in a Lit course.

It’s not a constructive use of time to list why the writer is great. That centralizes our focus on the writer, not the story. That elevates the writer’s status in our mind and, consequently, lowers our own evaluation of our own writing skills.

Instead, we should focus our time on looking at the writing as a story. Does the story have a well-developed plot? Are the characters fully formed? Does the dialogue support the story? Do the descriptions, from the setting to the actions, contribute to the plot and the characters?

This is what I do when I read the classics. In fact, it’s why I read. I study the structure of the story. I take the writer (briefly) out of the equation while I evaluate what’s working and not working in the story. That is the only way I will learn how to refine my own work as a writer.

A writer great at their craft should be respected, not worshipped. And a great writer that you respect should be by your own choice, not because your teacher said so.

What do you think? Do you think writer worship is a waste of time? Share your opinions below.

5 Movies All Writers Must Watch About Writing

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Hitting a wall with your writing? Your eyes too strained from staring at a bright screen or a blank piece of paper for reading?

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Sometimes what our writing needs is for us to step back and relax for a bit. And what better way to renew our writing inspiration than to watch a movie (or five) about writing?

While all these movies about writing are entertaining, you’ll find new strategies worth applying to your work.

Capote

Movies About Writers 1

 

How far are you willing to go for your writing?

Famous writer Truman Capote decides to document the account of a murder of a Kansas family in what will become In Cold Blood. The twist? Capote develops a close relationship with one of the killers.

What to Take Away: What current event can you turn into a strong narrative? How close are you willing to get to the story?

Midnight in Paris

Movies About Writers 2

What if writers from the past could read your work? What would they say? Would they like it?

In one of Woody Allen’s many movies about writers, a successful but creatively unfulfilled and nostalgic Hollywood screenwriter struggles to finish his first novel while vacationing with his fiancée in Paris. He stumbles upon an opportunity to go back to the 1920s every midnight to experience the decade with his favorite writers, learning more about his novel draft and his writing craft with every passing night.

What to Take Away: Take notes on what your favorite writers do successfully in their stories. How can you apply their tactics to your work? What would they say about your writing? Would their advice be applicable to your work?

Stranger Than Fiction

Movies About Writers 3

Sometimes tapping into the creative process of another writer is what we need to break our own writer’s block.

An IRS auditor, who lives a very rigid life, suddenly hears a voice in his head narrating his every move. He is urgent to find the narrator when the voice states his impending death. It turns out that the narrator is a best-selling author writing her next book–but is suffering from writer’s block when it comes to killing him.

What to Take Away: How does the author in the movie tackle and break her writer’s block? Can you use the same strategies in your own work?

Sideways

Movies About Writers 4

Do you feel that your writing is insignificant? Rejections bringing you down?

In this movie, an English teacher (and unsuccessful writer), at the brink of a mid-life crisis, takes his soon-to-be-married actor friend and college roommate on a road trip through wine country just before he walks down the aisle. While one is seeking out another fling, the other is seeking out his worth as a writer.

What to Take Away: How does he deal with his doubt? Have you felt the same way? What questions should you ask yourself when you doubt your writing?

His Girl Friday

Movies About Writers 5

 

Not all movies about writing focus on crafting long stories.

A hard-boiled editor for a large newspaper learns that his ex-wife and former star reporter plans to marry a bland insurance man and move to the suburbs. Instead of accepting the facts, he tries every trick in the book to win her back as a reporter and as his wife–all through a breaking news story.

What to Take Away: Notice how quickly they must write to get the story out? How can you do this in areas you are struggling to write?

 

Did I miss any? What is your favorite movie about writing or writers? List your go-to flicks below.