On Misguided Notions

April 28th, 2008 · 3 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

Reading too much, my brother explained in his English-teacherly way, is a disaster for a writer. To immerse yourself in literature – particularly those of your contemporaries – makes your work derivative at worst, and unoriginal at best. To keep your voice pure, he suggested, you must retreat, Kasper Hauser-like, only to emerge later with a voice as clear as God intended. It was an argument that almost culminated in our first exchange of blows since 1994.

File Under: Quote of the Week

3 responses so far ↓

  • Susan Helene Gottfried // Apr 28, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I know others who’ll agree but I’ve found that once I’ve got the voice of my own current work-in-progress down, this isn’t a concern. And if something slips during the writing phase, there’s always the editing phase down the road to fix it.

    Read widely and from various genres is the best advice I’ve ever heard to avoid this problem. And careful editing.

  • benny thomas // Apr 29, 2008 at 9:53 am

    A writer’s craft may be polished ‘by sedulously playing ape’ to this or that writer. It is only prepares the writer to find his /her own voice. Once a writer has had sufficient confidence in that voice being distinct and reflects the basic personality with a number of shades that can give the voice a convincing account even when writing something contrary ( otherwise how shall a Walter Mitty author a clock and dagger novel with some handful of corpses spread over his literary work?) it would give it some volume. Of course life experience helps.
    I feel often like Remus and Romulus suckling on some primordial wolf within. So with life experience I do not mean my own but all those are impressed within. Which teat I choose must show my own distinctness.

  • Virginia Kantra // May 21, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Voice is a function of your experience and your emotions: what you have to say as well as how you say it. Your work is only going to be derivative and unoriginal if, in fact, you don’t have much to say; if what you have to say is overwhelmed by the way someone else once said something similar.

    Advising a writer not to read is like telling someone learning to speak that he should not to listen to other people’s conversation.