Observations

Writers Tell Stories

“I stand in the mist and cry, thinking of myself standing in the mist and crying, and wondering if I will ever be able to use this experience in a book.” ~ Erica Jong

Writers don’t “reminisce.” We tell stories. There’s a difference. Everything (every experience) is potential grist for the mill, if not right away, eventually. Some part of every writer is ever the observer translating every moment into (possible) narrative. I think it’s one of the things that non-writers don’t grasp about what it is to be a writer.

I was also thinking the other day how being a writer is one of the few professions where so many people who aren’t writers seem to have some comment on it. I think that’s because it is generally viewed as a talent more than a skill, by those who aren’t writers. I think people don’t know what to say when they find out someone is a writer. If someone says, “What do you do?” and the answer is, say, “I’m a pilot.” People don’t usually say, “I used to fly planes all the time. I grew out of it.” If someone says they’re a gourmet pastry chef, you generally don’t hear people responding with, “I’ve got some great cup cakes ideas I’d like to run by you.” It’s just one of those things I’ve noticed about professions that are viewed to be “talent” based. “I play pro-basketball.”  As if only…”Yeah, man? I love to shoot hoops. State champs my senior year.”… it had gone another way. People really don’t know what to say if you say you write horror. Just an observation.

Just an observation, which would bring me back to the first point. Observation isn’t judgment, or isn’t necessarily judgment. Noticing the way someone holds a glass so you can describe it later doesn’t necessarily involve any kind of personal opinion forming about the person, the glass, what’s in the glass, etc. In many cases, the reader attaches far more meaning to whatever it is/was than there was for the writer at the writing of the thing, and that’s kind of how it’s supposed to be. Though certainly there are some things that are personal for every writer. What writers have to beware of is allowing/absorbing the imposition of reader perceptions on themselves. Writers tell stories, it is how we process our reality.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live…” Joan Didion, The White Album

“I stand in the mist and cry, thinking of myself standing in the mist and crying, and wondering if I will ever be able to use this experience in a book.” ~ Erica Jong

TS

Categories: Observations, On Writing