Ursula Built Worlds

Have you watched the documentary about Ursula K LeGuin? If you’re a fan of her work, obviously you should. If you’re a writer, you also should watch it. If you gain inspiration from learning about other creative people, then definitely go watch it.

I’m currently reading her Hainish stories. Her world building takes my breath away. What must it be like in her head? These worlds are finely wrought, well-thought out, and complex. But so far she hasn’t bored me with tedious descriptions. She reveals things as needed.

So, if you’re trying to create a universe, read her work, listen to her interviews, and watch the film.

But for me what was most impressive about her was her ability to listen and see things differently, even her own creations. In the documentary, she talks about criticisms of her work (particularly early work), and Le Guin didn’t become angry. She didn’t (to use that annoying current popular phrase) double down. She talked about her process of being momentarily defensive, but then seriously considering what others were saying–not in a I-must-change-to-make-others-happy way. No.

Le Guin weighed the criticisms, discarded some and took onboard points that she felt had merit. She then acted accordingly. I found it refreshing as well as instructive.

It’s hard to know when to listen to the critics. You’re not here to make everyone happy. We know that doesn’t work. But other people can valuable insights into your work that might sound unpleasant to hear in the moment, but that will help you improve. Maybe listen.

I liked how Le Guin didn’t become angry either. She just worked with what she realized would help her and she ignored the rest, not wasting valuable energy on rage. I’m not against rage when called for. And rage is called for in this off-the-rails world but not at everything. Sometimes the best weapon is indifference. Just shrug and move on.

In any case, Le Guin was an amazing soul. (She also has a terrific name. Ursula K. Le Guin. I love saying it.)

I’m sorry I shall never be able to meet her. She is missed.

Thanks for reading!

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