Is this True?

So I'm perusing my Bartlett's Familiar Quotations and I come across this one. (Writers, please sit down.)

The true writer has nothing to say. What counts is the way he says it.
Alain Robbe-Grillet

I staggered about my office, flummoxed and dizzy. Yes, yes, the way we say it--voice and all that--but having nothing to say?

It's true there's nothing new under the sun, BUT not all us have had the same experiences in life. We have stories to tell, secrets to divulge, mysteries to solve. And other times, it actually is the shared experience we wish to indulge in because it helps us to identify ourselves and to know that we are not alone.

In fact, I think that's one of the most important things a writer, especially a children's writer, can convey: you are not alone. Strong, fictional characters become our friends; readers become loyal to authors who can deliver that familiarity with genuineness. When I pick up a book by one of my favorite authors, I'm instantly all nice and cozy--they're such good hosts! (Then there are my favorite mystery/suspense writers who offer something entirely different. Instead of cappuccino, they toss me a gun and then there's all that running around and stuff. Still, I like the excitement.)

So, back to the quote: The true writer has nothing to say. What do you think?

10 comments:

Kim Kasch said...

I must not be a true writer 'cuz I'm a yickety-yackety talkity-chattier.

:)

Stephen Parrish said...

This is a no-brainer. I disagree with the quote. There are plenty of things that are worth saying, and that need to be said. And there ARE new things under the sun. All the time.

What you say is more important than how you say it, because the latter is meaningless in the absence of the former.

Take that, Alain Robbe-Grillet!

Sandy Nawrot said...

The quote is way off base. In nearly every book I read, there is a message. The author has something on their mind! Perhaps what this quote is trying to say is that it may not be the first time this thought or idea has been expressed. The way the author expresses it, though, is what makes it their own!

Stella said...

I disagree - vehemently. Every book I read has something different to offer, sometimes it's a lesson on snappy dialogue or a study of how to create a mysterious atmosphere or... who knows? Until I open a book and begin the journey, I won't know.

Charles Gramlich said...

There are some "writers" who fit that mold. They're style over substance. I don't read those writers. Needless to say, I think the quote is just silly, and exactly the opposite of what the truth should be.

Christina Farley said...

Very interesting. I'd like to know when the quote came into effect. Was it during the 5th century that suddenly everything that needed to be said was said or was it like a hundred years ago or yesterday. :)

Danette Haworth said...

Kim,
I had the same thought about my own longwinded self!

Stephen,
I disagree with the quote too. You nailed him!

Besides, I thought it was lawyers who learned how to write without actually saying anything.

Sandy,
Yes, so true. And yet, I still take umbrage at the first sentence. : )

Angela said...

I think some people come up with quotes like that to get attention.

I mean, it's kind of like:

-A true swimmer hates the water

-A true pilot flies with his eyes closed

It's all sort of - whatever.

I've also read interviews by some of my favorite writers who say the opposite things. Like in one interview saying "I write for myself only myself and don't care if anyone else likes a word of it." And in another interview answering the same question "With every sentence, with every word, my thought is on the child at the other end reading my words."

That being said, I talk a lot and write a lot. I have a lot to say.

But I think my characters are much more interesting than I am (I hope so, at least)

BTW Dannette - I like what you have to say!

Kim Kasch said...

I've awarded you a Kreativ Blogger award. Stop by my blog to pick it up.

Mary Witzl said...

I've heard this before -- one of those cliches that sounds so clever until you really stop to consider what it means. It's like saying real cooks don't need food to cook with -- it's all technique. I've got tons to say, personally. All the technique and voice in the world won't help a writer if she doesn't have anything to say.

(And boy, am I glad everyone else agrees that this is nonsense!)