Shyness and Saunders @ Link Wanderlust


Many writers are shy, so when I found a story on the timid, I couldn’t resist talking about it.

“Sometimes,” Dr. Heimlich noted, bemoaning how easily human nature can become a threat to human life, “a victim of choking becomes embarrassed by his predicament and succeeds in getting up and leaving the area unnoticed.” If no one happens upon him, “he will die or suffer permanent brain damage within seconds.”

Shyness can kill but it also has a good side. The book that Megan Garber discusses called Shrinking Violets talks about shyness in all its avatars. It would be comforting to the extraordinarily shy soul to know that Seneca, Sontag, Alan Turing, Primo Levi and even Philip Roth were victims of shyness. Shy people are often extremely intelligent and sensitive, yet they are mostly misunderstood.

Quietness, in a world that is loud, can make for an easy enemy.

Nowadays shyness is becoming acceptable as it has spread like an epidemic amongst gadget users. Though it is now a rampant disorder, shyness, historians say, is a product of civilization. More about this quirk in character here: The Case for Shyness.

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Another article I came across was a longish essay by George Saunders about what writers really do when they write. You don’t just write about something that you envision. It’s a much more organic process than that. You start writing and then you rinse and lather or what is called edit. Editing is a continuous process and necessary as it makes the text more readable and the more you sit  with the manuscript, the more your love for your characters shows you the way. Saunders clarifies that he has always written in this messy way and that no amount of plotting on detailed color coded plot charts can make your book any better than the rewriting process can make it.

So ideas and first lines came to him as though from the heavens, but really as a result of painstaking rewriting. The mysterious part of writing is when the characters start writing the story for you.

“All of these imaginary beings started working together, without me having decided they should do so (each simply doing that which produced the best prose)….. (It wasn’t me, it was them.)”

If you do write or if the process of writing interests you, you must read What Writers Do when they Write.




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