Liquid Ink

The official website of Gint Aras, Finalist 2016 CWA Book Award

Writing advice from a terrified man

7 Comments

You should write the thing you would really like to be reading.

You can’t claim you don’t know what that is. That’s like saying you don’t know what you want to order from the menu. Of course you know. If you were by yourself, you’d order it.

Unless you’re one of those people who doesn’t know what to order when you’re by yourself. It’s because you’re playing the bullshit game, believing there’s something better than what you want. There simply isn’t. There is nothing better than what you want. You think, I want to order the best meal. I want to know that, when my food comes, I’m eating the best thing. Who’s going to judge what’s in your mouth? Don’t play games with yourself. No one can taste your food for you. And if you’re tasting something other than what you’re eating, you’re having a delusion, and you’re alone in it.

You’ll say that writing isn’t food. I should be writing for the audience. Which one? You’ll know people who claim to be experimental, sublime, vulgar, minimalist, maximalist, postmodern, classical, formalist, post-punk, marxist, nihilist, spiritual, bleeding and cauterized. Good. Know them. They will never taste the food in your mouth, and they will never know what you would like to be reading unless you show them.

When they read and say you’re not postmodern enough, the experience teaches you little about yourself. Instead, you learn this critic believes he’s really postmodern. He’s a tyrant wishing the world to be different from itself, but he is a walking paradox and has not learned what generates the world in the first place. He looks at mailboxes and fire hydrants and condoms and thinks, “These things are not postmodern enough. I’m not interested in them.” Fool! You want a postmodern condom?  Look at a rubber and say, “Now there’s a Postmodern Condom.” There’s a Marxist Maibox. There’s a Bleeding Hydrant.

You are the hydrant. It’s you. It is also the reader, just as you are the reader. When someone reads this sentence: “The fire hydrant is bleeding,” the hydrant bleeds both because an author has written and a reader has read. If the reader is pissed about a bleeding hydrant, it is because s/he has failed to imagine the hydrant bleeding in a satisfactory way. Writing about a Marxist Mailbox will not solve anyone’s problem. It simply contributes a distraction from the first, and now we have two identical problems instead of one.

Yes, it’s frightening to admit what you would like to be reading, then to show it to someone. It is identical to seeing that pretty girl, the one with the ribbon on her back and the French braid, and walking up to say, “I love you.” Chances are she does not love you. You know this. You knew it the first time you saw her. But there are two reasons to tell her the truth. One is to be done with it. The other is to see what happens.

What is the worst outcome? She’ll murder you in disgust. But death is absolutely certain. Better to be killed for expressing love than to wait for death in a fortress. Better to write the sentence you would like to be reading than to write the one you hope everyone loves. You cannot tell love what it wants to hear; that is a fraudulent start, the relationship headed for doom. Instead, when you write, you want someone to say, “I thought I was the only one who saw bleeding hydrants.”

Of course you’re not. Hydrant blood puts out fires.

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Photo by Darin Barry.

7 thoughts on “Writing advice from a terrified man

  1. Just fantastic Gint. I’ve been struggling with what to write for weeks now, wondering what people wanted to read, what would interest them. This has helped remind me that, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. I can only write what I can write. Thank you.

  2. If I really think about it, I’m not sure I’d want people to know what I’d love to read. Muahahaha. Great post, Gint.

  3. This made me smile. As a new writer I’ve struggled with this issue recently. I wrote what I wanted to read, or maybe what I thought people should know, and I took it to a writing group and they said it sounded sermonic and asked if it was just for me or what? They said it was repetitive and sounded good spoken but not as good in text. They asked me who my audience was. I thought, and still think this was good advice. What I originally wrote for them was a spiritual manifesto, a polemic against our material way of living. They said I should present the ideas more as questions instead of declarations.

    Since then I’ve written much more empathetically, lending the reader to discovering the idea a little bit more slowly, instead of throwing it down their throat.

    I don’t know. I think it works.. I really do want to change people’s minds, and turn them onto a different way of thinking, or new realizations at least, and I think that it is important to be empathetic to people instead of attacking the things they seemingly have no choice but to adopt, because I think we are much more fragile than we imagine ourselves to be.

    But your piece reminds me to write from the heart, that is my takeaway. I think I can still write from the heart without being angry and attacking. I hope it works.

  4. Thank you so much. I do know what I like to read. I also know that when I write I am trying to please the people who will see it rather than writing what I want to read. It’s frustrating, now that I’ve started showing people what I write, it’s harder for me to write because I am answering the critics instead of myself.
    Well, I know I’ll be following you now.

  5. The biggest issue I have (I have started writing 5000 word stories on facebook) is that it is quite hard to get either positive or negative feedback. Then I stopped writing for a few weeks and I had a half a dozen people asking me why I stopped.

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