Nobody is good enough
“Let the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory. Teach yourself by your own mistakes; people learn only by error. The good artist believes that nobody is good enough to give him advice. He has supreme vanity. No matter how much he admires the old writer, he wants to beat him.”
in the Paris Review
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I’m inclined toward Faulkner’s view of learning how to write. That it can be only self taught in the end.
I often think that some people turn to guidebooks and groups and classes as a way to give them an easier route to their goal than the hard work and frustration and restarts that are the real path. This is probably true about any endeavor, from writing to weight loss (and I’m convinced that the last thing a for-pay diet program wants is for you to lose significant weight — they’d lose a customer if you did).
Sure, a lot of workshopping and peer editing can improve a story, but that merely points out the mistakes, which Faulkner speaks of. The writer must still overcome them.
I especially like the line about the good artist believing that nobody is good enough to give him (or her) advice. True or not, it gives the artist drive and confidence.