Can writers get too comfortable?

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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 interview with musician and songwriter Nick Cave…

I know very little about popular music — except that my lack of knowledge makes my own children despair. So when reader Zoe Basil forwarded me a Guardian story on musician Nick Cave, I had to admit, I didn’t know who he was.

If that describes you, I can now say that Nick Cave is an Australian musician, songwriter and author now living in England. The genre of music he plays is variously described as: post-punk, gothic rock, alternative rock and experimental rock. I listened to some of it and found it melodic, although not hugely musically interesting.

Nevertheless, as the Guardian story reveals, he does have some intriguing thoughts about writing.

When the interviewer asks him how he decides what to share with readers, here is how he responds:

The idea of censoring things as you write, it’s just something that I don’t do. Maybe I should, but I feel I can’t afford to be doing that. 

And when the interviewer asks if writers can get too comfortable, he says:

No, because the inspiration for writing isn’t really without, it’s within. And you can write really anywhere if your imagination is in good shape. It needs to be exercised. But it doesn’t really matter where you are.

I’m not sure I agree with him about the “too comfortable” part.  I think it is possible for writers to become this way. Those who are overly confident in their talent, may not edit enough to take their writing out of the realm of the crappy first draft. I always try to hold the late Brendan Gill as my model. He typically rewrote everything 17 times. Yes, 17 times!

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