Writing From the Heart
If you read the mission statement on the right-hand column on this blog, you’ll see that writing from the heart is one important point. So, what exactly is writing from the heart?
I’ve posted about these topics in these couple of posts about writing your truth – in short, this means, writing what resounds deeply within your innermost heart; writing what has meaning to you. This mean digging deep inside and seeing what hurts, what sings, what makes you laugh, what makes you want to throw things in anger, what makes you cower in fear – all of that, and putting it into a book!
Oh, the horror.
It’s almost too ghastly to face, am I right? It’s like the boggart in the closet. We can all take a moment here to remember the scene (or just scroll down!) in the Harry Potter series where Neville has to face the Snape-boggart. But, remember? Lupin has Neville imagine said boggart in his grandmother’s clothes, which is hilarious, and reduces the boggart to naught.
We can do as Neville did, and gather strength in order to face the boggart of writing what means most to us.
Face Your Boggart!
One way to find out what means most to us is to keep a journal. I’m sure you’ve read that a thousand times on writer blogs. Well, do it then. It helps.
Another practical thing we can do is to keep a running list of issues that mean a lot to us – and I don’t mean Trump vs. Hillary vs. Bernie, here. I mean the jumble deep down. J.K. Rowling wrote about a child whose mother’s love literally saved his life, after her mother passed away. Stephen King contemplates what terrifies him, in order to compile his horror fiction. So, think, take action, and face that boggart.
I just finished reading Katherine Addison’s The Goblin Emperor, about an 18-year-old goblin-elf who has lived in a lonely manor and is suddenly forced to become the emperor when his family dies in an “accident”. Throughout the book I found myself getting annoyed with the main character for being so damn nice to everyone and always asking them about their opinion first. You’re an emperor, damn it! Act like one!
But then as I finished the book I sat back and wondered. What had made Katherine Addison write such a gentle, humble, fearful character? Perhaps this struggle for self-identity and strong will is or was one of her struggles. This gave me more sympathy for the character and the author. It also made me think about my own novel-in-progress, and how to put myself into my characters, and how to make it all matter to my readers, in the characters’ bodies, not my own.
Writing About the Heart
Writing from the heart means also, simply writing with feeling and variety. Use words that are dynamic and powerful, not cliche and ordinary. Writing about the heart, on the other hand, means things like:
- How do I write about seeing my grandmother’s dead body? What did it feel like, again?
- What was it like to be bullied in school, how can I summon up that anger I had for those other kids? How can I put that anger into words?
- Sometimes I hate how shy I am, and I don’t even want to be in my own body, let alone try to have a fun conversation with someone. I wish I didn’t have to talk to anyone, sometimes. How do I write about that self-repression?
All of the above are examples of issues that come from life experience, that resound in one’s heart. (They’re also experiences from my own life, incidentally). When it comes down to it, I feel like articulating it is SO simple. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Put yourself back in your own shoes of that moment you’re trying to write about. Feel it all again. Then, let it all pour out of you, as you think, as you remember – or right after – onto the page.
Of course, it’s not always that easy, there’s process and steps, blah blah, but…sometimes, I think, it really is that simple.
What It Feels Like
When I write from the heart, it makes me want to laugh. To cry. To shout. When I write from the heart, I don’t doubt what I’ve written. I know that what I just wrote is true to me. I don’t feel the urge to edit. I don’t worry about what people will think. I feel so free and happy, knowing that I just expressed myself honestly, and said something that was burning to be said. By me. I said it in a way that only I could say, and it is just right.
Achieving these moments isn’t always easy, nor do they always come close together. But it’s so worth all the journaling, talking with other writers, bleeding over first drafts, etc. To just have that fine-tuned moment of YESS! deep with expression.
It doesn’t even have to be YESS! Sometimes it’s the tears you shed over a character you kill, or a loss you just wrote down. Maybe you hadn’t even had it in your mind, or were avoiding it, and then the sad thing came out in writing…what a release. A relief. A shelter.
Anger, too, of course. All of it! All of it is inside of us, and we write it down in stories because without writing it down, we’d go crazy. If it isn’t something you’d go crazy by not writing it down, then, well…maybe it’s not your truth. It’s not the thing you really are the best person to write about. It’s not personal and true to your heart enough.
They say “write what you know“. Well, I think it’s more of a, “Write what feels like ripping your heart out of your chest and putting it on paper.”
With that grisly image, I bid you good night.
Until next time,