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How to love your writing

‘It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.’

Vincent van Gogh

Tucked away in sub-folders, there they lie: the stories I wrote but don’t love. They irritate, embarrass, make me queasy. They’re so wrong I don’t care to fix them.

In different genres and styles, from various points of view, of several plot types, they’re each uniquely flawed. I’ve come up with a theory that they’ve one thing in common, the underlying reason for their ickiness. It goes like this:

'Oh, hang on, my unloved stories are unlovable because I didn’t put any love into them.'

Jenny Gaitskell

They’re the stories I wrote in rage, spite or despair, or to shine my tiny clever clogs, or to meet the imagined requirements of a stranger.

‘You should write because you love the shape of stories and sentences and the creation of different words on a page.’

Annie Proulx

The other stories, those I believe in, and love at least in parts, were written with love. These stories aren’t just about stuff I’m fond of, such as pokey cheese and chasing rainbows. They include tales of horror and sadness, utter gits, misadventures and injustices and disastrous endings. But they were all written for no other reason than to explore something I value, am inspired and excited by.

‘We write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person.’

Virginia Woolf

Writing love into a story is paying tribute by paying attention, seeking intimacy with important stuff. What stuff? Well, I'm not going to tell anyone else what's important to them, but here are my for examples:

  • human strength and goodness (the least expected the better)

  • the baby steps between light and dark

  • beautiful or intriguing philosophies

  • wonder, everyday magic, tickly weirdness

  • beloved characters or settings (real, dreamed or imagined)

  • brain-worm words or phrases

  • overcoming or embracing absurdity

  • the possibility of unexpected joy

  • the impossibility of one person wholly understanding another

  • nobility in loneliness

  • cheese so pokey it makes your eyeballs sweat (other intense sensory experiences are available)

If we write into our stories something we care deeply about, put into the writing the respect and affection our subject deserves, then, first, the writing experience can be fully involved and absorbing, satisfying and meaningful. Most importantly, writing in love offers the best possible chance of loving what we’ve written. That's my theory.

‘All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.’


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