Writing as Laborious Play

This is an excellent short essay by Mary Volmer, which uses John Edgar Wideman’s memoir, Hoop Roots, to talk about writing as sport. Like athletes, writers embody re-creation as recreation and grow “original” through rote practice. It ain’t easy.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz3 copy(2)By Mary Volmer

The obsessions of writers and athletes begin the same way, as play.  In his memoir, Hoop Roots, John Edgar Wideman explains that his basketball obsession began, “as messing around…throw a ball through a hoop, a fun silly kind of trick at first, until you decide you want to do it better.” He might as well have been speaking about storytelling and writing.

Writing starts as novelty, as messing around, until you decide you want to do it better, and become willing, as Wideman says, to “learn the game’s ABC’s.  Learn what it costs to play.” What follows is a period of joyful mimicry. Not yet aware of the limits of your ability, you are burdened only by your own evolving expectations.  Try and fail and try again, until the ball begins to fall through the hoop with regularity–until the writing, once derivative, takes on its own life…

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Posted on October 6, 2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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