Wednesday, October 27, 2010


How much is too much? How much is too little? Recently I've been working on a non-fiction piece, don't worry I'm still working on the novel too, and I've come to realize there is just not enough of "me" in the piece. It's a personal essay based on my last visit to Holland and I finally worked up a first draft, and then a second, even on to a third. But when I looked back and re-read it something was missing. It didn't have the raw emotion that I thought it needed. So I finally took it to a writer friend that I respect and had her take a look at it.

As it turns out, all the things that I thought it was missing, all things that I thought probably weren't necessary, were reinforced. I don't know why I do that. It's like I know the answer but I need someone to confirm my reservations before I move forward. But there comes the hard part.

How much of yourself do you really want to put into a particular piece of writing? With non-fiction its hard not to because the narrator is usually the writer. But I have the same problems when writing fiction. It falls flat because there isn't enough of me or not enough of a dominant narrator. A narrator that has quirks like everyone does, a narrator that has opinions about certain things even if it's something that's open to debate.
Then I think, maybe I don't know enough about the narrator. Which is fair in fiction. But when you're writing non-fiction, how do you not know enough of the narrator? Aren't you the only person that knows yourself better than anyone else?

It comes down to fear. How much of myself do I want to put out there? How much am I willing to put out there? For it to be good, I guess the answer is simple. Just enough to get your point across. Which brings me back to how much is too much and how much is too little. How do you know when you have just the right amount? Is there suppose to be some fancy trigger or alarm that goes off, like the timer on an oven, letting you know when it's done? Even then sometimes the oven is not right. All ovens are different. Just as all people are different.

I fear I am going in circles. Which leads me to believe, there is no definitive answer. You have to trust your instincts. Something I am pretty bad at doing. I would much rather follow a recipe, have it all spelled out for me. Exact cooking time, exact ingredients. But if the cooking time is wrong...jeez. What if you feel like you've overcooked it, even though to look at it, it still looks not quite finished? So you give it a little more time, and it's still doesn't look done but how could the recipe have been wrong? So you take it out...someone else tries it and says, it could have cooked just a little longer.

Viscious circle. But no one ever said writing was simple. And there is no recipe for success.

1 comment:

  1. Yes but you said it yourself - you KNEW what it needed. Trusting your instincts is only scary, it's not WRONG.

    As to how much of yourself to put out there - I decide that on an article by article (or in my case, poem by poem) basis. If there's something twelve people tell me I need to be clearer about, sometimes I will be clearly, and sometimes I will decide this poem will just have to stink, because that's all I'm sayin' about whatever-it-is.


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