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  • jrblackburnsmith

Writing is Writing, Right?

It's all words on a page, so writing is writing, right? Not for me, it's not. If you look at the date between entries on this blog, you would never believe that I have a daily writing routine. I get up at 4am during the week and maybe 7:30 on the weekends and sit down and write, but if you ask me to journal, or post a blog on my site, or write a letter, I'm frequently missing in action.


How can that be? I start with the idea of voice. for some reason, I'm much more comfortable finding my voice in fiction than I am in any type of discourse in which the ideas are more clearly mine. But aren't the ideas all mine? Of course they are, but since I claim my characters speak for themselves, not me, it gives me a level of deniability. It's how undergraduates learn to write - "a close reader will find', "experts agree" "one could say" - no commitment to the idea at all. They want to get it in there but have plausible deniability - it's not my idea, its what other people think. A blog must be filled with my ideas - I can't pass them off as something interesting. Owning the words and thoughts takes courage.


Writing fiction can also require courage. I want to write emotionally honest fiction that means something to the people that read it. I want to devastate them, but allowing my characters speak the things we don't often say out loud. I want the reader to be entertained, illuminated, devastated. I want them deconstructed and rearranged with some truth they hadn't owned yet. (By the way, I'm not claiming success in this endeavor. It's the goal., if not the reality.) But it is still easier to try that for me in fiction than in other forms. Maybe it's because of the number of times I've read something that changed me to my core. Maybe it's because I get irritated when I read an essay that I think it lecturing me and expecting me to change. (Read Clint Smith's How the Word is Passed for a lecture in how to write devastating non-fiction prose that isn't a lecture.)


So writing isn't writing, not all the time. Sometimes it's something much more.



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