The old tricks have been exploded, and I think the language needs to find new ways to pull the reader…A lot of it has to do with voice, and a feeling of intimacy between the writer and the reader…Given the atomization and loneliness of contemporary life–that’s our opening.”
-David Foster Wallace
I print out and tape quotes in the front of my journals as I’m working on my book. I cut and paste making a deranged scrapbook of sorts. The first part of writing is the idea, getting it down. Then we clean up the messy bits, the squiggly bits as Anthony Bourdain would refer the food equivalent.
Somewhere in there though comes the part where I realize I have a story, but it isn’t there. The soul is missing. Let me try to explain it another way.
You meet a new friend and she is fantastic and interesting and you have so much in common. Then perhaps the two of you start sharing some secrets, but they’re B-level secrets. It still goes well, and you feel the intimacy grow. You start to trust your new friend, and something happens in your life as these things are want to do, and you share an A-level secret. You know the ones. You barely admit them to yourself and here you are sharing the nuts and bolts of your inner ugliness with the new friend. And you’re met with platitudes. Perhaps a story of commonality, but one that is B, not A. You wish you could take back the sharing, but once out there, it’s out there.
I think what we’re all trying to do is give our reader the A-level secrets. The problem arises when you need to dig harder and further just to unearth them yourself. Then you have to write it down, and get it right. The genre doesn’t matter. It’s about writing as true as you can…for an entire book. You can’t not return e-mails, you can’t screen your phone calls. You have to be honest, write your heart out, and dig deeper so that every person who reads your book feels that level of intimacy, that you are entrusting them with a piece of your soul.
And really, isn’t that what we’re doing after all? It may sound like I’m being hyperbolic, but what would you call being possessed by a story? The need to get it down, to get it right, to write it over and over again until you can do no more?
People are lonely in crowded rooms. Some turn to reality television to feel a connection to other people’s lives that I believe was more common before the rise of the internet, text messages and e-mail. We used the phone. We sat down for coffee in diners. We met people in church, at block parties, at weekly card nights.
People are lonely. They are searching. We’re all searching. Our job as writers is to make them feel a little less alone, to help them cry, to make them laugh. The gift we have isn’t the writing. It’s the desire to tell a story, to make something out of nothing. It’s the fact that we have an idea.
The rest is just hard work.