Guy Gavriel Kay on A Writer’s Life

Every Wednesday I post a link to someone else’s thoughts on a topic of interest to writers, as well as a bit of commentary.

If you hang around me long enough and the conversation turns to fantasy, chances are I’ll start spouting the praises of Guy Gavriel Kay at some point. His duology The Sarantine Mosaic was a revelation to me, and he’s one of a handful of authors whose books I can truly lose myself in—where my admiration of craft and enjoyment of story blend perfectly.

Recently, he gave a 50-minute lecture for the Writer’s Trust of Canada on the topic of “A Writer’s Life.”

Listen here

The first three minutes are biographical. Kay’s lecture starts at 3:24.

It’s worth a listen, particularly in the context of this blog and others that touch on how to write. He starts off by talking about the importance of reading someone’s work rather than listening to what they have to say about how they create it, and he comes to the conclusion that “How I have written, or how anyone has, does not tell someone” at the beginning of the career what they need to do.

As someone who edits for a living, I might seem disinclined to agree with him, but I think he makes an important point. There’s a difference between seeking feedback on your writing, which will help you improve it, and seeking (or offering) THE ONE TRUE PATH TO GREATNESS, which so many people do. Your strengths and your weaknesses, along with your opportunities and obstacles, will come together to guide your development and create your process. So read a little about how to write. You’ll find good and useful ideas. But more than that, read authors you want to write like and do your best to learn from their work.

That’s only about the first 20 minutes of the lecture. Kay goes on to talk about the “creative arrogance” inherent in the act of sharing writing and the fear that comes married to it, and from there, he charts the power of fiction writers in shaping the perception of history. He charges that this power comes with responsibility and urges awareness of “the power that accrues” to books that are intended primarily as entertainment, because if they’re good at what they do, they’re the books that most people read.

So like I said, lots to chew on there. I hope you get a chance to listen to the lecture, and I hope it’s a profitable 50 minutes for you.

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