Writing doesn’t work when the tension is gone…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss an article about Grace Paley…

Grace Paley (1922 – 2007), pictured above, was an American short story writer, poet, teacher, and political activist. As famous for her teaching as her writing, she taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York (which she co-founded), Columbia University, Syracuse University and the City College of New York.

I haven’t read much of her writing but I feel as though I know her after reading Maria Popova’s excellent Brain Pickings blog post, “The Value of Not Understanding Everything.”

It intrigues me that Grace Paley ignores Mark Twain’s counsel: “write about what you know.” Instead, she suggests that writers investigate their own “dumbness.” Arguing  that writing doesn’t work when “the tension and the mystery and the question are gone,” she concludes:

The writer is not some kind of phony historian who runs around answering everyone’s questions with made-up characters tying up loose ends. She is nothing but a questioner.

I don’t agree with everything that Paley says, but I find her views interesting and challenging and invigorating. Read more, here.