Peer Review

I wonder what Borges or Larkin would have thought of a community of "librarian-writers"?  Or Chekov or WCW of a community of "physician-writers"?  FRL reaches out this morning looking for ways to bond with and encourage other "librarian-writers".  A worthy goal, driven, it seems, by the positive experience she's having in her writing class.

But I guess I'm feeling peevish about the "librarian-writer" label.  Surely most of us have more sides than that.  As much as both writing and being a librarian are key to my being, the librarians that I hang out with tend to be musicians, rather than writers.  But then, the non-librarians that I hang out with have always tended to be musicians or artists of one sort or another.   When Bestwick and I head down to Marty's to play, I don't think of him as a "shooting goods distributor - musician".  I doubt that he spends much time thinking about my dayjob either.  When I spend the night at Duke's house in a couple of weeks, I'll be there 'cause he's a drummer.   I do have some libraryland stuff that I want to talk over with him, but I'll probably save that for another time.

A "community of writers" is problematic, writers being the most solitary of artists.  As FRL points out, most writers are busy enough writing about whatever they're writing about to want to take much time to do writing about each other's writing.   (Otherwise they become critics and end up with that wierd leathery skin).

The workshop experience is certainly valuable.   A marriage and a half ago, the writing workshops I took with Jennifer Atkinson had a huge impact on me.  But it wasn't so much that it created community, as that it gave me structure and put demands on me -- so many poems over so many weeks in certain forms.  I enjoyed the interaction with the other students, and Atkinson was a great workshop teacher (even though she and I agreed on very little), but most of what I learned came from being forced, in my isolation, to keep making the very hard choices involved in putting down one word and then trying to figure out which word comes next.

In a band, you have to talk with each other at least a little bit about what you're trying to achieve, because all of the parts need to come together.   Painters will hang out in each others' studios and look at the canvases and talk about how many egg whites it takes to get just that sheen they're looking for in that swath of blue.   When writers get together they talk about -- anything at all, except writing.

Back when I was in philosophy school, studying esthetics, I came to think of  all artistic endeavor as "the translation of the ineffable".   That is, we turn to the arts to try to express, share, and understand those profound experiences that, by their very nature, cannot be expressed in words.  And so poetry becomes the most beautifully and hopelessly human of all the arts.

I chafe at the notion of being a "librarian-writer".  I'd have to be a "librarian-writer-guitar player-singer-grandfather-boss-poet-drinking buddy-weeper at movies-trying to be a great husband & stepfather......"  Where do you stop?

I'll give FRL this much -- linking up with people who share your interest in what it means to be a librarian, along with your passion for creating great sentences, is a good thing.  Getting together when you can to eat and drink and laugh and tell stories -- that's a great thing.  Will it make us better writers?  Better librarians?  I dunno.  But it is some of what's best of being human. 

Is that what "community" means?


K.G. Schneider

We can parse our lives and connections many different ways. Since I am already connected to other librarians, it's easy to find myself in community with those who are librarian-writers (for the same reason we find gatherings of librarian quilters, or gay librarians, or librarian chefs, or--my favorite of all--librarian Rotarians).

I like that my workshop buddies (and yes, the collegiality of school is important to me) are not librarians. I love that to these folks I'm only a librarian in the most distant, caricaturish sense. But among librarians, I like small-group connections, and "them what write" is a nice slice.

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