I know, I know.
You thought I was going to tell you the story about how I ended up with this wooden leg and wooden ear and wooden neck or that I was finally—FINALLY—going to explain that lost weekend in Calgary (it was supposed to be a lost weekend in Tijuana but I turned right instead of left at some point).
No, I’m here to tell you about one of the best pieces of advice about writing that I ever heard: “You should want to tell a story like you want to tell gossip.”
|Oscar Wilde, pioneer of the charming author photo|
I believe that quote is attributed to Oscar Wilde, as are most witty, writing-related observations. It was either him or Dorothy Parker.
Somewhere in history there’s a bunch of pissed off writers who said really witty things only to have them wrongly attributed but hey, what are you gonna do?
The point is, in anything you write, there should be a sense of urgency to writing it or otherwise, why bother? If you don’t need to tell this story, if you don’t relish telling this story, if you don’t truly believe you will come apart at the molecular level unless you tell this story right now, then what’s the point? Please bore your friends and family with your mildly interesting stories of no particular relevance and leave the rest of us out of it.
|Who convinced Dorothy Parker this pose was a good idea?|
Now, granted, writing is a slog on the best of days so you are not ALWAYS going to feel that manic urgency while doing the actual the writing of your must-tell tale, and if you do feel that way, you’re probably on some bourbon-and-Ring- Ding-fueled bender. You’d do well to take a break and let the sugar rush wear off. But by and large, you should feel like the story in your head is one you’d run home to tell your best friend right away or you’re going to burst.
Agents and editors talk all the time about the dreaded E word—enthusiasm. Well, enthusiasm begins at home. It’s got to start with you.