I gave a recent talk on being a successful writer (craft tips, pitching advice, and a few other helpful hints) to a public library near Milwaukee (Muskego Public Library), a truly wonderful place with a gorgeous, inspired, high vaulted ceiling, lots of local artwork, and happily, plenty of people using it . . . even in the midst of a snowy, slippery January blizzard. One person on her way drove into a ditch, but got pulled out and still made it to my program. It made me want to share good thoughts on writing!
A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals. He isn’t telling, or teaching, or ordering. Rather, he seeks to establish a relationship with meaning, of feeling, of observing. We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. And one of our ancient methods is to tell a story, begging the listener to say, and to feel, “Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.”
– John Steinbeck
A related thought, from the website of Australian author Morris Gleitzman:
I don’t think you can make emotions up, no matter how good your imagination is. I’ve never met a writer who knows how to invent new emotions. All we can do is use the emotions we all feel every day. Love, hate, hope, fear, excitement, jealousy, sadness, guilt, joy, anxiety etc. The characters in our stories may be feeling them for different reasons to us, but they’re the same emotions.
– Morris Gleitzman
There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.
– Willa Cather
The point: we need to connect to our readers with stories and characters and feelings that resonate with them, that touch on those simplest, oldest, most powerful of stories.