An increasingly popular topic (and, arguably, increasingly popular faux pas) is writing about writing. Now, there are certain people who can and should write about writing. For example, when a Doug Wilson or Stephen King writes about writing, it’s going to be worth reading. Why? Because they have wisdom to impart that’s based upon decades of experience.
But most of us aren’t these men. We lack experience and are short on wisdom. So when we write about writing, it’s usually about stuff like calling and destiny and dreams and such things. But writing this way has an unfortunate side effect: more often than not, we come across a bit pretentious.
While sometimes we might feel as though “here I write, I can do no other,” when you actually say it, it just sounds kind of, well, dumb.
So is there a way to write about writing without sounding like a tool? Sure.
Here are a couple of suggestions:
1. Don’t write about it often. Let’s just be honest: the best kind of writing about writing is the kind that doesn’t happen too often. (And as a friend pointed out recently when curmudgeoning about this very subject, it’s telling that few exceptional writers actually write about it at all. Instead they just write. That’s good advice for us all.)
2. Keep it practical. If you’ve been reading helpful books on writing, like Wordsmithy, On Writing, How to Write Short, or even Bird by Bird (though I’m not a huge fan of Anne Lamott’s style), write about that. If you actually learned something useful while working on a big project (like a book), share something like that every once in a while.
3. Keep it honest. An example will be helpful here: Every time I’ve been asked about why I started writing, I’ve said the same thing: I started writing out of pure desperation. It wasn’t a perceived calling. I didn’t have a fire in my bones or any such thing. I was thrown into a writing job and needed to figure out how to not suck at it. When I say “keep it honest,” that’s what I’m talking about.
And that’s pretty much it. If you write about writing and don’t want to sound like a tool keep it practical, keep it honest and don’t do it very often.
Unless I’m wrong, in which case you’re on your own.