What Does It Mean to Be a Writer?

I’m taking an online course exclusively for alumnae of my college, taught by an eminent professor of literature who is also a well known writer. The two works for this assignment were Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and Marguerite Duras’ The Lover.  In each novel, a central theme concerns the source of a writer’s inspiration and the motivation for becoming a writer.  Not to trivialize these great works by comparing them to my own paltry efforts, tonight’s webinar made me think about the NaBloPoMo challenge that I have taken up for November. Apparently, and I am paraphrasing here, Samuel Beckett posited that writers need to fail, fail again, and then fail better.  My esteemed professor elaborated on that notion suggesting that all writers feel like failures because the vision one has in one’s mind is never perfectly translated into words.  Where does the desire to write come from? Is it merely a narcissistic act of self-discovery or self-promotion? Is it an ode to some platonic ideal of the perfect form? She suggested that talent is inborn, but the discipline to fail, fail again and then fail better is an attribute to be cultivated through practice, practice, practice.  So,  perhaps the point of NaBloPoMo is just to begin to fail, to fail again, and then to fail better.

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