This week, on one of the loops I belong to, a multi-published writer spoke very frankly about the recent breakup of his marriage. He talked about his bewilderment and pain in a straightforward, unashamed manner.
I was reminded of the first time I read Stephen King's On Writing. King's honest commentary on issues I couldn't imagine talking about in public, much less in print, horrified me. I especially remember his openness about his bouts of impotency. And I can recall thinking if I were his wife, I'd kill him.
In the years since, I've come to recognize that talking about the human condition is what writers do. Which means we have to learn to maneuver in the Land of Feelings.
I've said multiple times on this blog that I believe the purpose of all genre fiction is to evoke emotion in the reader . . . different emotions depending on the different genres.
I now have a corollary to go with that proposition: If the purpose of all genre fiction is to evoke emotion in the reader, the writer must become comfortable talking about emotions.
Eleanor Roosevelt said: "Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, small minds talk about people."
While I admire that lofty sentiment, I'm not sure it applies equally to all writers. Maybe it is applicable to writers of non-fiction, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't apply to writers of fiction--either literary or genre. We talk about people and events all the time.
I am finishing what I hope, God willing, will be the second third of my life. In the first third, I was a scared kid, just trying to stay safe. I was pretty much raw emotion; it took everything I had to hold myself together. I was like a pinball, batted back and forth between fear and anger.
Then I careened to the opposite end of the pinball machine. For about half of the second third of my life, I lived inside my head. Everything was an intellectual debate. I shied away from revealing my feelings, or being open about emotion. My anger morphed into competitiveness. While it was good for my career, it did nothing for me as an individual.
When I read my written work from those years, I find it incredibly sterile. It's no wonder nothing sold. Quite frankly, it was boring, without life.
Fortunately, with therapy and a change of career (it's funny how we find what we need), I learned to become both more open and more honest about what I was feeling. And, while I didn't realize it at the time, my writing began to integrate both ideas and emotion.
Now I'm on the cusp of the last third of my life. My goal as a writer
--and as a person--is to try to find a balance between ideas and emotion.
Intellectualism uninformed by feeling no longer holds any attraction for me. Nor does uncontrolled emotion. Increasingly, I'm seeking to slough off negativity and to surround myself with people who are passionate: passionate about their work, their lives and the ones they love. Hell, I've got a limited amount of time left. Why spend it with people who do nothing but complain or criticize?
I guess the message here is to look at your writing . . . and your life. Are you painting a fully nuanced landscape, with all the colors your palette has to offer? If you are only using the colors from one end of the spectrum, won't your finished product be mono-
chromatic? And are you willing to settle for that?
Try painting with different colors today.