Make Me Laugh
More conference photos to come, but today, let's get back to that whole issue of the naked page. It's much easier to fill it with words if you know which words you're supposed to be writing. Which words are uniquely yours--words no one else would write?
I've been thinking about the emotions we're most drawn to. If you're a writer--and even if you're not--it helps to know what emotion you tend to gravitate toward in your writing (or your reading). Do you love angst? Fear? Warm fuzzies? Passion? Excitement?
Words filled with the emotions you want to tap into the most are the words that should fill your pages.
By far, I'm most drawn to humor. Most of my favorite writers are those who can make me laugh. Anne Lamott, David Sedaris, Dave Barry. I turn to the humorous memoir format for reasons I don't quite understand. I keep meaning to analyze why this is. Maybe it's partly because I write humorous fiction, so when I read memoirs, I'm not so inclined to compare it to my own writing.
There are other emotions I seek out, of course--we all need to experience the entire range of emotions--but for as long as I can remember, I've loved nothing more than making other people laugh and having other people make me laugh.
Knowing what emotion most floats your boat will go a long way toward helping you hone your writing voice. You can play to it instead of resisting it. Sometimes we writers resist our natural inclinations by accident.
Maybe there's a market demand for big, angst-filled historicals, so you write one even though you really want to write quirky futuristic comedies, because you want to sell a book, and maybe your angsty historical does sell. But will that book be as good as one that taps into your key emotions?
There's no correct answer to the above. Sometimes as writers, our goal is to make a living--writing whatever it is that makes us a living. But when planning a writing career, you have to also seek out the stories that are so uniquely yours, they could be mistaken for no one else's. Those are the books the most successful careers are built upon.