Monday, July 5, 2010

"I Wish I'd Writen It"

Before I begin I would like to say that this is not in retaliation to anything said to me or even based on any specific incident. Only a meandering contemplation based on general opservation. I hope I would never actaully mistake a kind encouragement for an insult and would not encourage anyone else to do so.

There is a phrase that circulates around criteques and book reviews writen by other writers that purplexes me. "That was so beautiful (stunning, witty, informative, insert-other-complement-here) I wish I had written it." I can only ask, "why?"

I can understand a small pang of jealousy. That is part of the elusive chase of mastering words. A longing not to admire, but to pocess, to create. The artist is never quite satisfied, never quite there, always getting closer, always getting further away but though that is a small part of the phrase when someone says "That was so beautiful I wish I'd written it" I feel a stronger expression of someone being inspired rather than jealousy and that is why the phrase baffles me.

You will never have the privlage of reading your own writing for the first time. You will never surprise yourself the same way that you surprise your readers. You will never be able to catch your own breath the way other authors can.

"So beautiful I wish I'd written it." Why? If you had you would never have been able to experience it.


  1. I have experienced the thought before, but I agree! One of the best things about reading is the surprise of the first read, and you can't do that if you're the writer.

  2. I've never experienced the thought and I agree with your sentiments regarding it.

    I disagree, though, with the following part of your post: "You will never surprise yourself the same way that you surprise your readers."

    I've gone back and read material that I wrote many years ago. I've surprised myself :)

    In his later years, Vonnegut wrote about his past writing. He used a phrase to describe his reaction when he went back and read his own stuff: "How did I do that?" It's magical when you get that reaction to your own writing. I've read your posts. You're the type of writer who'll probably experience that reaction years from now.

    Keep writing; and don't ever take me too seriously :)

  3. Perhaps it was an incomplete thought. You may be able to go back years later and be surprised by your own work but you have to aproach it with a detatchment of time that lets go of some of that ownership. You-at-the-moment never wrote it. You-once-upon-a-time who thought a slightly different way did and thus you can embrace the full experience at be surprised.

    Either that or I'm just rambling. :)