BOOKS: The Faith of a Writer by Joyce Carol Oates

The author of Black Water, Rape: a Love Story and The Tattooed Girl ruminates on writing, including her thoughts on other writers. She discusses inspiration, failure, criticism, influences and reading. It’s an intriguing foray into the writing process from initial concept to final product.

I believe that art is the highest expression of the human spirit.

Your struggle with your buried self, or selves, yields your art’ these emotions are the fuel that drives your writing and makes possible hours, days, weeks, months and years of what will appear to others, at a distance, as “work.”

Don’t expect to be treated justly by the world. Don’t even expect to be treated mercifully.

It is a man’s world; a woman whose sensibility has been stoke by feminism will find much to annoy and offend, but perhaps there’s much to learn, and to be inspired by, if only in knowing what it’s like to be an outsider gazing in.

I’ve never thought of writing as the mere arrangement of words on the page but the attempted embodiment of a vision; a complex of emotions; raw experience.

Though most of us inhabit degrees of failure or the anticipation of it, very few persons are willing to acknowledge the fact, out of a vague but surely correct sense that it is not altogether American to do so.

Of course, writing is an art. And art springs from the depths of the human imagination and is likely to be, in the final analysis as at first glance, idiosyncratic, mysterious, and beyond easy interpretation.

The inspiration a writer takes from a predecessor is usually accidental, like the inspirations of our lives; those individuals met by chance who become integral to our destinies.

Self-criticism, like self-administered brain surgery, is perhaps not a good idea. Can the “self” see the “self” with any objectivity?

To have a reliable opinion of oneself, one must know the subject, and perhaps that isn’t possible. We know how we feel about ourselves, but only from hour to hour; our moods change, like the intensity of light outside our windows.

The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art


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