Saying What You Mean

March 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

When I present my writing to others, the feedback somehow always seems to come round to the piece’s perspective. It’s very detached, they say, these people, these close friends or random men with square glasses I meet on park benches. Very observational. Isolated. Kind of lonely, actually. And they don’t mean anything bad by this criticism, these people, just notes, observations.

But this criticism bothered me. Drove me crazy, really. Because in the one sphere where I felt in control, I had rendered myself alone. Again. So I tried new things. I came up with more characters, forced interactions, made them have a jolly old time. More dialogue, less reflection, and overall a lot less aloneness. I refused to let my characters have that right. They were utterly unalone, surrounded by people they felt connected to, and content within their worlds.

And none of it worked.

Sometimes I experience physical feelings while I write. The incredible rush of that almost larger than life flow state, the aching pit in my soul that says yes, yes, that’s true, that’s real, and then the grinding halt of a coughing, trudging piece I’m forcing onward like a dead horse. That’s what these pieces felt like. Each word had to be forced out, whole sentences sagged, and the entire thing just begged me, the merciless slave driver, to stop.

So I did.

Because here’s the thing: it’s great to experiment with your writing style. Perfectly fine, healthy even, to step outside of the little box you’ve created and take a look around, see what else is out there, and also get a good look at what exactly you’re doing. By pushing myself into that uncomfortable place, I realized more about my own style, and that, yes, maybe I could stand to switch it up a bit. But that’s also my thing. It’s what I do. At least for now. My writing comes from an observational stance because that’s how I often feel like I take in the world. It can be lonely because I’m lonely, or because what I’m trying to say reflects the loneliness of human life. My style does what it needs to do: it communicates truth, something that can be lost when another style is forced. You’re doing more than missing the point. You’re betraying yourself.

So if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Your readers deserve more, and so does your piece. Say what you mean, not what you think your writing should sound like. Because when you do that, you’re not really saying anything at all. Just noise.



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