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Posts Tagged ‘therapy’

There are a lot of “rules” associated with writing, most of which are deceptively simple in form and exceedingly difficult in practice, like: “Write what you know.” How many of us have actually had to deal with the kinds of travails found in most literary novels, let alone destroyed a space station or carried the One Ring? Or my favorite: “Show, don’t tell.” It took me years to figure out what that meant, and now I spend so much time trying to follow it, it slows the whole process. And then, of course, there is the school of thought that says the rules are only there for when you’re starting out, but when you’re established, you can break them. This never made much sense to me; in what other field of endeavor do you succeed so you can get worse?*

But there’s one rule that stands out, not because it’s confusing, but because it’s hard. I believe it’s the Number One rule, the One Ring of rules, if you will, because if you can master it you can throw the rest into a volcano…

“Write what hurts.”

Yeah, that. Think about it. All you have to do to succeed in this business is to put down on paper for the world to read the most excruciating experiences you can imagine. (Again, write what you know.) If you can do that , if you can grab onto to your feelings from these moments and express them with brutal honesty, readers will not be able to help devouring your work. You will grab them by the heart and not let go. You will sell and take home awards and be admired.

And of course you will have dredged up everything in your life that you’ve been trying to forget since you were 13 years old. That’s gonna hurt. It has to hurt, or you’re not doing it right.

Now no one says you have to follow that route. Lots of writers make perfectly comfortable careers out of books whose plots and characters are no thicker than the pages upon which they appear. Writing as pure entertainment is not only lucrative, but necessary, and requires no soul-baring. If that’s your path, follow it, as far and as long as you can.

But if you want to write something Deep, and Meaningful, then you can’t skirt this rule. You have to obey it, or at least try, as slow and messy and painful as that journey will be. And unlike therapy, it’s hard to do lying down.

Still, I guess it’s cheaper.

 

*Other than politics, of course.

#SFWApro

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