Yesterday (October 9, 2012) I read a blog on blog.nathanbransford.com that hit home for me. The title is “Writing as Catharsis” and as a writer, I found a powerful message that clarified some of my own questions about writing. I won’t quote from it or even paraphrase anything in it. If you are interested, you can read it yourself and get what is meaningful for you out of it.
I try to write at least 3 pages in my personal journal (using a pen and notebook) every morning. This morning as I wrote, a lot of thoughts came up as a direct result of reading that blog. My own blog today jumps off from one sentence that I wrote: One needs to get in touch with one’s own feelings in order to write with feeling.
Sounds simple enough, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. And if one isn’t in touch with one’s own feelings, the writing will most likely be flat and boring.
John Cheever, whose book, The Stories of John Cheever, won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize, was certainly in touch with his. I still remember a short story he wrote about two couples that get together and start drinking, drink too much and the evening deteriorates badly. I wish I could remember the name of that story! If anyone knows it, please pass it on to me. I’d like to read it again. John Cheever was an alcoholic. If he didn’t have the experience of drinking to excess, I doubt very much that he could have written so compelling a story. Of course not all of his stories are about drinking. But all of his stories do convey feelings. And his stories are still read today, studied and considered classics.
Hemingway wrote about personal experiences including his war experiences, framing them in fictional stories and novels. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. I don’t even have to mention his first name was Ernest, you know who I mean without it. And as most of you probably know, he was a tortured soul, with many personal struggles, who eventually committed suicide. In his writing, he was definitely in touch with his feelings and left a legacy of classics that testify to that.
That brings me to a question. Do all writers have to experience everything they write about? Of course not. There are many classics that are not based on a person’s personal experience. But (and this is a big BUT) I would bet there is some nugget or kernel of a personal nature in all successful writing. The bottom line is that without the feelings, I don’t think someone else’s writing will touch us.