on being original + fierce



I was exchanging emails with a writer of a novel I admired, when he asked me how my own work was going.

It goes in fits + starts, I wrote, partly I think because I didn’t have enough distance from the real-life things that inspired it. I lacked clarity. Also, afraid to write some of it, which I take as a good + promising sign.

He agreed that it was a good and promising sign, because that meant “the stakes are what they ought to be.”

I loved that response, and told him so, and he came back with an anecdote about a well-respected writer he knew who was judging a literary contest and reading through the novels that had been nominated and finding them well-written, yes, very much so, but…uninteresting…because there’s nothing in the way for the writer. There’s no obstacle. Nothing real is at stake.

All of which I think is another way of saying, The writer failed to go there.

Going there is about working along the nerve, slicing open your inner life. click to tweet Whether it’s tapping into confession, fantasy, or simply what you really think, this kind of writing isn’t safe. You’re stepping forward with a bold point of view, allowing yourself to move along the lines of your instincts instead of the wellworn grooves of what’s already out there.

When you go there, you know it. You’ve got real soulskin in the game.

Origin means the point at which something comes into existence: the source. To write in an original voice means to write from your source. Every story in the world has been told a million times…except when filtered through the prism of your perspective, your experiences and talent and worldview, grounded in the details of your private landscape. To write this way, original and fierce, means to show yourself, and not the glossy and practiced persona but the creature who lives behind that.

It means to throw down.

May 16, 2013

1 Comment · Add Yours

This is such an excellent reminder. I thank you. The hardest things to write are the ones that come from the soul. But they’re the ones that matter. Great post. Thanks again.


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