This month so far, I’ve read three draft autobiographies. Each one has left me awe struck at the author’s bravery, their determination to recover from emotional and physical hardship.
Each of them has been trying to convey a life of great profundity and richness, of wild passions and strong desires.
In each one the wildness has been there, somewhere behind the words, struggling to be heard, roaring in its cage. In each one, to a greater or lesser extent, the writer has been afraid to release it. As we all are, some or most of the time.
Take this example: I was walking along the street; my heels click clacking on the concrete paving. I smelt exhaust fumes. I heard horns, engines revving in traffic. Then I saw him, the ONE, the only person I hoped never to see again. ‘Hello’ he said. The next day I remembered back to that encounter….
Cutting away from the action in this way, just as the tension, emotion, or drama rises, is one strategy that us writers employ (usually unconsciously), to stop ourselves from having to make contact with memories that are just too hard to face, emotions that are too painful to feel again. Because what happens if we feel that deeply? We implode or explode, we destroy ourselves, or others, don’t we?
So, to be a freer writer, and a more liberated person, try this:
Always move towards events that carry emotion, tension or drama. Write them out fully. Linger. Let the reader feel.
Don’t cheat yourself, or them, of an opportunity to feel deeply, to process those emotions by letting them move through the body, and swell and dissipate in their own good time. Cutting to the next scene is for mundane events, events that are not significant to the emotional journey of your hero.
Learn to notice when you cut away. And when you’ve learned to spot it in your writing, try to notice it in your conversations, and in your thoughts too. What’s in the white space between your paragraphs? Write and let me know, please.
This blog was first published on October 22nd 2012