“You sound just like YOU!” gushed Jen as she walked into my house last weekend for our altered books workshop.
I’d never met Jen in person before, but she’d recently been in my eCourse, Telling True Stories, and knew my voice from the weekly writing lessons that I sent to the group.
“Goody!” I said, “that’s how it should be: we should sound in person like we do on paper.”
Which is to say – when we write, let’s trust the music that comes out of us, the exact words that want to be written, and the sound of our own true voices on paper. And while we’re at it, let’s write about what we LOVE, not what we think other people will want to read about. That’s where our natural energy is, where our passion lives, and honestly, writing will be easier and so much more fun when we let what we love drive the bus!
Trust Your Obsessions!
My friend and long-time student Becky Ruiz Jenab, writes a lot about food. She loves to cook and bake – it’s part of her language, the fabric of her life – her foundation. Her Mexican-American grandmother taught her to make tortillas, her Persian sister-in-law showed her how to make Persian flatbread – which she makes for her husband and which he swoons over. Becky makes fruit pies and delivers them to her grandparents hundreds of miles from her home, and on weekends she makes hamburger sliders for her kids.
Making food, talking and writing about food is one of Becky’s big loves. And because of that, she can mesmerize you for pages with the details of sorting lentils or squeezing lemons for pie.
I asked her what it was like to write about the things she cares about most.
“By writing about your obsession,” she said, “whatever it may be, is where you ultimately discover where your sources of vitality come from.
“Anything you’re obsessed with or preoccupied by is worth writing about. No one will pay the same sort of devoted attention to it that you will; no one will bring it to life the way you can, because of that devotion; no one will see it the way you do, or live it or love it or feel it as you do. If it occupies that much space in your heart, it’s best to get it out, tell its story. It will resonate with others and have a life of its own.”
I LOVE what Becky wrote. I could not have said it better myself.
Years ago, when Becky and I first started writing together, she’d write these long pieces all about getting dinner ready, and the group of writers around the table would sit there with their jaws hanging. The details were so dramatic – mouth watering – not to mention totally entertaining.
“But I’m just writing about dinner,” she’d say. “Yes!” we would shout, “and don’t you dare stop!”
Luckily for us she didn’t, and her gorgeous food writing is a reminder to me that when we follow what deeply interests us, when we pay attention to the details of what we love and we take that love to the page, we hit gold.