The Faith of a Writer
By Joyce Carol Oates
Completed June 29, 2008
Joyce Carol Oates explored the craft of writing in her collection of essays, The Faith of a Writer. I was expecting an autobiographical passage through JCO’s evolution as a writer, but that was not quite what she delivered in this slim book. Instead, she talked about how other writers – namely Emily Dickinson, Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville and a host of others – became great writers.
Several themes emerged from JCO’s essays. First, writers are their own worst critics but have high opinions of their writing genius. Secondly, many of a writers’ early works were raw, hard to read and commercially unsuccessful, but without these first attempts, the greater works would not have existed. Finally, writers live in an alternate universe: always thinking about their stories, how to revise them and how to advance the story or the characters. This usually resulted in insomnia, social isolation and blank stares.
Probably, these essays are examined in great depth by college students whose professors want to explain the psyche of a writer. If you are looking for a book about the personal writing process, this is not the book for you. I would recommend Stephen King’s On Writing for that type of book. The Faith of a Writer is better suited for readers who love writers – the famous ones – and want a better understanding on how they perfected their craft.