WHAT WRITERS MOST NEED
WHAT DO WRITERS MOST NEED? A DEEPLY, PERSONAL EMOTIONAL ANCHOR
So what do writers most need? Is it all those books you keep buying about how to write or all those courses you keep taking? How many books about writing do you own? I must have 20 or more. But I think I can throw most of them away after reading what I did this morning. All I or you or most writers need is a “deeply, personal, emotional anchor”. Let me explain.
What I’m about to share now isn’t just for memoir writers. It’s for writers of all genres. And I have to confess that what I want to tell you isn’t original. I stole it. Or rather, what I read in this post by JAMES ALTUCHER, inspired me to write this post. Such good advice. Such insight. So damn right!
Maybe what I read in Altucher’s post screamed so loudly at me because it justified my own style and approach to writing. I wrote all three of my memoirs without thinking of being the next Margaret Atwood or Ernest Hemingway. I didn’t give much thought to using all the devices that the 20 or so books I own said I must. I just wrote. From the heart. With passion. I didn’t care if my books became bestsellers or not. I didn’t care if they won awards. I wrote them because I had a “deeply personal, emotional anchor” to what I was writing as a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
And here’s the strange part: once my 3 memoirs were written and published, I swore those were the last memoirs I would write. I was done. So I waffled around trying to find something else to write about. My mind was blank. In desperation, I grabbed the pen and started writing a fiction piece. It took me twice as long to write that 7000 word short story as it took me to write “The Ladies of Loretto”. But as I wrote, I realized something was happening to the characters in my fiction piece: they were extensions of the characters, the real people in my memoirs, especially of myself. What was this? Why was it so hard to keep sexual deviation out of my writing?
The answer came to me this morning in James Altucher’s post. I am deeply, personally, emotionally anchored it that subject. And if it works for Kurt Vonnegut, JK Rowling, Stephen King to be deeply emotionally and personally anchored, why am I fighting it? It it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
So just what did Mr. Altucher say that so inspired and encouraged me about my writing today? Read his entire post at the link above, but here’s the part that got me:
Heres what I think all great artists do:
They have a deeply personal emotional anchor they can tie their work to.
For Kurt Vonnegut, he was dramatically effected by the firebombing of Dresden, Germany, where he was a prisoner of war.
130,000 people died in a single day. Compared with 90,000 in Hiroshima. Kurt Vonnegut survived and his job after that was to dig up all the bodies.
When he ANCHORS a book (in Slaughterhouse Five, for instance, he anchors to the most horrific moment of his life – Dresden), he can go CRAZY after that: time travel, other planets, placing the author as a side character in the book, all sorts of experimentation.
It doesn’t matter because he can always pull back to the emotional anchor when he needs to. And then we all relate.
No emotional anchor = no art. No meaning.
Another example: Harry Potter. The emotional anchor: an orphan, mistreated by step-parents, wants to feel special.
The craziness: Off to wizard’s school to fight bad magic everywhere!
Another example: Carrie. Social outcast girl with overly religious and strict mother. Craziness: Rains blood on everyone at the prom.
None of these writers use fancy language. They get their emotional anchor. Then they go crazy. They are not “trained” writers. They write.
Oh I love what he said there! Read that last line again: “None of these writers use fancy language. They get their emotional anchor. Then they go crazy. They are not “trained” writers. They write.”
YES, YES, and YES! I don’t use fancy language. I do have an emotional anchor. I go a little crazy. I’m not a trained writer. I just write.
Get it? What’s your deeply personal emotional anchor? That’s the secret to writing that memoir or anything you’re struggling to write. That’s what writers most need. Don’t fight it. Don’t edit it. Give in to it. Just let it flow. Just write!
P.S. Be sure to click on the photo of Kurt Vonnegut included with this post. Then follow his advice.
©Viga Boland, author of “No Tears for my Father”, “Learning to Love Myself”, “The Ladies of Loretto”, and editor of MEMOIRABILIA.