Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Scooping the story or plying a craft

The pit of anxiety when I'm writing (or thinking about the writing I'm not doing) signals something amiss. At times it is the worry that someone else will get there before I do, leaving nothing left to say for all my effort. More often it is the background chatter of imagined voices assigning praise or blame, or telling me I have finally arrived.

Perhaps the chatter is inevitable. One writes for an audience, after all, and recognizing the natural desire for approval is surely better than the self-deception that insists, "I didn't build it for me."

Still, the best one can do is ignore the "deadly poison of self-admiration" (or, for that matter, self-blame), for it is the siren cry of what Lewis calls the "Inner Ring" where vocation is reduced to a tool to be manipulated for personal advancement. It is much better to ply your craft for its own sake:
"The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. this group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain. And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that its secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ringer can ever have it." - C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), 65.

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