Friday, 19 November 2010

Where do you write from?

Today I scanned The Writer's Almanac entry on American poet Sharon Olds.  One comment I noticed was that she felt writing is physical and for her it come from her lungs.

It set me thinking about my own writing and where it comes from.  The logical place especially when writing factual projects is that it comes from my brain.  I'm assessing what needs to be included, checking the accuracy of what I write; in short it all seemed to come from the logical side of my brain.

But that's not entirely the case because even for such projects, I have in mind the end reader as well as my client.  A case in point is the medical preface I worked on yesterday.  While I had to make sure that it was accurate, I had to take into account what the author stated was his goal for the whole piece.  He wanted to get across the outcomes people can achieve for their patients using the techniques he was offering.

When I was working on the piece, I did have in mind the end user of all of the techniques the writer was talking about. It will be someone who is afraid of the disease that seems to be taking over their body.  Not only at the mercy of the disease but also of the medical intervention they need for their condition.

To that extent, the writing came from my heart because I had this picture of the person on the receiving end of the medical procedure I was editing.  Maybe that seems to be far fetched.  I'm not the one with the condition, It's not happening to me and the piece is aimed at the oncologists and technicians who will deal with such people. 

When I think about other projects I've done recently, such as a brochure for a not for profit training organisation I know my emotions were involved.  I interviewed some of the recipients of the training and tried to include their pleasure and satisfaction with the outcomes of the training organisations work on their behalf.

It's difficult for me to detach my emotions completely because I have to become enthused or I can't inject whatever the piece needs to connect to its reader.

Hmm.  Interesting.  I would have said that my emotions were there at the service of the piece but I hadn't so much connected it to writing from my heart.

Any thoughts about your own writing?


  1. When I write a poem I’m trying to trap an experience, the experience I had when I first conceived the piece. The words are an artificial mechanism, nothing more, leading the reader towards a similar (but personal) conclusion. Since I talk about meaning so much most people would think I’m content with an intellectual appreciation, for the reader to ‘get’ the poem, but what I’m really looking for is for them to feel the poem in their whole body. Writing a poem is a pleasurable act – I have no idea if endorphins are released or what goes on chemically while I write – but there is such a thing as a creative high. A reader is less of a creator but there should also be a realisational high because a poem is only fully realised when it is read and becomes a part of the reader, when they make it their own. In that respect poetry is sensual. I don’t get the same feeling from prose writing although there is a sense of satisfaction when a work goes well.

  2. Thanks for your comment Jim. Maybe because I don't write poetry, except for lines in my morning pages, I have a sensual experience when writing prose.

    Editing clients' work for me is the honing process that strips the junk away. I can spend time weighing one word against another to see how close I can come not to perfection, which I don't believe in but clarity and the kind of writing that creeps into the reader's mind so they think we're already having a conversation.