Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Writing about life

I've been reading Timothy Hallinan's blog and laughing guiltily at it. Guiltily because I don't usually laugh at other people's misfortunes and laughing because he has taken a bloody awful day and turned it into a very amusing piece of prose.

It got me thinking about feelings and writing. I don't think it's any use writing a story simply as catharsis if you want someone else to enjoy reading it. I've read other people's work that was written simply to get something off their chest or as tribute to a wonderful family member. It has huge emotional impact for them but not for anyone else.

My first longish story was fairly autobiographical. It was also crap but I felt better for writing it. Unfortunately, I haven't reached the stage of non-crapness yet where I can tell you how to do the opposite: take the experiences you have and transform them into something that will resonate with the reader and give them a good experience. I'm pretty sure that avoiding self-indulgent writing is in there somewhere. Perhaps it means writing with another person in mind. Experienced writers, please feel free to chip in here.

I don't know if writing his blog post yesterday made Timothy feel any better about his day but it definitely made me feel better. That's good writing at work.


Sylvia said...

I used to write small "essays" I guess about things that had happened or were happening which were fun and I think interesting. I'm thinking that may be the route I want to go with Backspace, I'm not sure I'm very good at writing about writing and I don't want to degenerate into complaining about writing all the time.

I've added Timothy's blog to my RSS :)

fairyhedgehog said...

His blog is well worth following.

As is Backspace! I'm following along, even if I don't comment every time. I love the way you write: it's like a window into your life.

Timothy Hallinan said...

Yes, it made me feel better, although I'm not positive whether sudden death might also have made me feel better.

I think your point about emotional impact is very important. In the collection of excerpts from THE ELEVENTH HOUR I posted, there's one from Ethan Canin (I think) in which he talks about working from details rather than from an overpowering emotion as a way to experience the emotion as a result of the story rather than as its cause.

That's not to say you don't feel strongly about the story you have to tell, but that you work from the concrete rather than from the nebulous. (And, by the way, the book I am/may still be blocked on, opened up quite a bit today. So hooray for me.)

Tim Hallinan

fairyhedgehog said...

Tim, you are so funny. I'm glad that sudden death didn't rescue you from the awfulness and that today your book is opening up for you.

I did read your blog with the comments from The Eleventh Hour. Some of them were a bit advanced for me but I take the point about working from details.

At the moment, I'm just trying to get anything down on the basis that at least I'll have something to edit later. (Thanks to the wonderful advice to writers on your website.)

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