Ursula Le Guin Describes the Freedom of a Writer
Why Writers Are Free
You are about the freest person that ever was.
Your freedom is what you have bought
with your solitude, your loneliness.
You are in the country where
you make up the rules, the laws.
You are both dictator and obedient populace
It is a country nobody has ever explored before.
It is up to you to make the maps, to build the cities.
Nobody else in the world can do it,
or ever could do it,
or ever will be able to do it again.
The Freedom of Writers
The words by Ursula Le Guin clearly define the freedom of fiction writers to create new worlds, new places, new beings. Fiction writers can also create rules and laws in their imagined societies. The statement that “Nobody else in the world can do it, or ever could do it, or ever will be able to do it again” expresses the reality that no one else will ever imagine exactly what the writer imagines.
What about Nonfiction?
How does this freedom of a writer relate to nonfiction? In nonfiction, you don't have the same kind of dictatorial power of fiction writers to create new worlds and new beings that have never existed.
However, both fiction writers and nonfiction writers alike share the same powerful freedom — the freedom to think, and to write about what they think.
Writing requires you to think about your topic. Readers expect nonfiction writers to think their way to different perspectives about any particular topic.
If you’re going to write, you need to have some original thoughts about a topic.
You need to write some original words about a problem.
You need to have some sort of original perspective about reality.
If you don't write some original thoughts, original words, or original perspectives about the world around you, you aren't really a writer.
Although you don’t create the rules and laws, you can certainly write what you think about the rules and laws, the dictators and obedient populations, the countries, maps, and cities.
Whatever you think about anything, no one else in the world can ever write exactly what you can write when you think about the world you inhabit. And no one can ever express your thoughts in written words exactly as you can.
Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story
A revised and updated guide to the essentials of a writer’s craft, presented by a brilliant practitioner of the art
Completely revised and rewritten to address the challenges and opportunities of the modern era, this handbook is a short, deceptively simple guide to the craft of writing. Le Guin lays out ten chapters that address the most fundamental components of narrative, from the sound of language to sentence construction to point of view. Each chapter combines illustrative examples from the global canon with Le Guin’s own witty commentary and an exercise that the writer can do solo or in a group. She also offers a comprehensive guide to working in writing groups, both actual and online.
[ Original Post October 1, 2014]
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