I was going through some old notes and critiques on the first draft of the book I'm revising. I had asked a friend of my husband's to read through it and give me some pointers. He has been trying to write the great American Novel for the last decade. He has lots of life experience that I can't really relate to. His writing style is very different from mine. I respect his ability.
This is one of the things he had to say. "There is no fire and there is no tortured contention lying beyond and below the words on the page. To put it another way, this is the work of someone that has no clear problems. I might be biased in assuming that all writing comes from a place of pain, but to clarify that contention it is more that no writing can come from any place but strong emotion. And this piece doesn't know what it is angry about. It doesn't know what it is trying to fix about the world."
I don't remember reading this particular critique two years ago when he first gave it to me. I would have been devastated at the time. Not only does he think my writing is shallow, but I'm shallow, too. Fortunately, time has leavened the lump and there is something of real value there. I wanted to share it with you.
Writing really does come from a place of strong emotion. It doesn't have to be pain, per se, but it does need to be an emotion. That is what makes it relatable. It's true that I don't have a checkered, angst filled past. I have still felt pain in my life. And love. And fear. And loneliness. And a bunch of other things. Just like everyone else. If I write from that very human part of myself, others will connect to my writing.
So, friends, how does your own experience and emotion surface in your writing?