This is easier to say than to do so I’m just going to say it. And perhaps you can do it. Let me know how you get on.
It’s just this: writing should hurt.
That’s what I think we get wrong, especially when we’re starting. I mean especially when we’re starting out, but also when we’re starting a new piece.
I was talking with a friend whose draft novel I’ve read and found myself saying this: there was nothing in the book that she had worried about me reading. As fun as it was, as enjoyable as it was, I feel this means she can go further, can go deeper. I don’t know whether she will and in fact I don’t know whether she should since the novel works as it is. Yet I know she can and I think it would be richer if she does. She’s got it in her so her book could have it too.
Tell a lie. She was concerned about one thing. There’s a deeply attractive character in it named Will and she wanted to make sure I knew there wasn’t one single pixel of him that was based on me. Thanks so much. You can over-stress these things, you know.
I wouldn’t have believed he was me, I wouldn’t have thought about it, wouldn’t have occurred to my noggin. Whereas I did notice that there was no pain in there, no exposed nerve endings, not of hers anyway. Her characters, yes.
Writing something should hurt you. When you write, you should be cutting yourself open and at most cauterising the wound. When you send that writing to someone, there should be something in it that you are worried about them seeing. Something new and very personal to you, something you don’t talk about, that you maybe avoid thinking about.
Now, as a reader sometimes I am just not in the mood to be put through a car wash and as a writer there haven’t been many Radio Times articles where I’ve bled over the page. Well, I have literally bled over the keyboard from effort getting something right, sure, but not from revealing something of myself in them. Not intentionally, anyway.
Drama and fiction need more blood. It is a curious thing yet the more personal, the more harshly deep you go, the further into yourself you search, the closer you get to your audience.
So excuse me, I’m off to search. I will spend some time reaching into the most hidden version of me, my very worst self, my very foulest being where I think things that scare and repulse me, where I want to visit now yet I truly do not want to be forever.
And then I’ll fashion all that into a lightweight romantic comedy.