#88: Brain Surgery for Writers

I came across a writing anecdote featuring Margaret Atwood the other week. It goes something like this:

A brain surgeon meets Margaret Atwood at a cocktail party: ‘So you write?’ says the brain surgeon. ‘Isn’t that interesting. I’ve always wanted to write. When I retire and have the time, I’m going to be a writer.’

‘What a coincidence,’ says Ms Atwood, ‘because when I retire, I’m going to be a brain surgeon.’

Hilarious, if you ask me. But it carries an important message: people often get confused about writing.

In a literate society, almost anyone can write. Keep putting words on the page for long enough, and you will produce something that at least looks like a book from several feet away. Sit down at a typewriter and bleed, right?

People aren’t confused about brain surgery. Prospective brain surgeons have to go through many years of formal education and training. Their qualification is a subject to periodic renewal where they have to demonstrate that they practice regularly and keep up with the ongoing developments in the field.

When your brain is the one to be operated on, you expect nothing short of excellence. The stakes are high. You want the most competent and senior person you can get with a stellar track record and impeccable work ethic. You won’t let a bloke with a can opener do your surgery.

Successful brain surgeons dedicate their lives to their profession.

The stakes are, of course, much lower for writers, but there’s a lot more competition. Sure, writing is subjective. Sure, some people get lucky. But all the best writers read a lot and write a lot. They spend long years honing their craft and face innumerable rejections before their work first sees publication. They write every day they possibly can and never stop learning to beat the odds and build an audience for themselves.

Succeeding as a writer may as well take the dedication of a brain surgeon.

What I Am Reading

As for reading, this week was pretty slow. I’m still reading story collections by William Gibson and Chuck Palahniuk. I finished Amy Weldon’s The Writer’s Eye which was good.

Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

Now I’m reading Lethal White by Robert Galbraith also known as J. K. Rowling. It’s the fourth one in a series featuring the ex-military private detective Cormoran Strike with his assistant Robin Ellacott. So far, it seems like it’s going to be a good one.

Short Stories

I also read the following short stories:


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