Hey, it’s nobody’s fault, not a problem, I’m just saying: I don’t really care about your feelings. I don’t mean you or your real, actual, deeply felt feelings; I mean the feelings you’re telling me about in your stories.
It was a holiday and you were apprehensive—okay, big deal, we’re all apprehensive at various holiday times. For me, I want to read the story of why you were so uneasy and then some more stuff about what happened. I don’t really care how you felt about it all; I want to know how it all came down. And if all that really happened was that you came to realize something or other, well maybe somebody else would like to know about that.
Are you finding meaning in nature—peace, maybe, tranquility? That’s just fine, but it doesn’t interest me. Tell me why the waves break the way they do or share an insight into the rhythms of the honeybee’s life. If you do it right, I’ll get the idea—or maybe not, but at least I’ll learn about something beyond the inside of your head.
Frankly, I am more interested in my feelings about the honeybee or the waves than I am in yours, so if you write it in a way that brings it alive for me, I’ll get the idea. And thank you for giving it to me.
This isn’t aimed only at you. In fact, I am talking to myself, along with everyone else. When I natter on about my anxiety or depression—or for that matter about my joy or excitement, it can be pretty boring unless and until I manage to write it so you can feel it, too.
I recently met a writer who, when asked what she wrote, said, “I write devotional books.” Every prejudice I have came to mind. Devotional? Devoted to what exactly? Is she writing prayer books, stories about loyal dogs? I pictured prettily flowered book jackets with long, pointy, glittering stars—and perhaps a collie off in the distance.
But maybe I am being unfair. People write for many reasons, some of which I relate to and others which elude me.
And conversely, we read for many reasons: Entertainment, enlightenment, and information are three big ones for me. So I try to write what I think, tell a story worth listening to and hope to make my readers feel smart and interested. ❏
Photo by Annie Spratt