Writers seem to be writing about the things they feel they ought to be writing about, and not the things that obsess them

I see a lot of stories that are well-crafted, especially in one or two particular elements: there’s a strong voice, or the dialogue is extra snappy, or the structure is fresh and startling. So there’s skill, but not always a lot of heart. Writers seem to be writing about the things they feel they ought to be writing about, and not the things that obsess them. That is, a lot of stories are missing that sense of the writer wrestling or contending with something vital to him or her.  When we find a story that does have that sense of an author’s struggle, we can usually tell. It’s often the one that gets chosen – it just has that extra layer to it, that tendency to resonate long after it has been read.

Aaron Shepard

13 thoughts on “Writers seem to be writing about the things they feel they ought to be writing about, and not the things that obsess them

  1. I couldn’t agree more. The John lockes and John grishams and James Pattersons of the world don’t seem to invest anything of themselves in their stories. For me their books read like they’ve been written from a checklist or formula. Nice post

  2. I agree. I think it has something to do with the fact that few people actually *think* anymore, because we’re filling our heads with so much information without allowing time to process. I’ve been guilty of this. But in my writing, I write about my obsessions. Not sure if this is a good thing, since I tend to become a bit psychotic at the end of a writing project. But it’s too much fun. Can’t imagine spending another day writing about what I think I should write. Writing my obsession is too much fun!

  3. ok. then what’s the obvious next question? “Why?” because they are focusing on selling a book, getting published, catering to what an agent/publisher is looking for, following market trends. it’s a double-edged sword.

    if everyone is buying fleegals, and i want to sell things, i have to consider selling fleegals. but what if i hate fleegals? what if i really love spirkles? i can make all the spirkles i want, but perhaps nobody will care. nobody will buy them, and i’ll be wasting my time. but i’ll enjoy what i’m doing.

    we have to hope that our love of what we’re writing will come through. hopefully, the agent/publisher will be able to sense the passion we have forged into that story we’ve crafted.

    • Rich, how long can we cater to the market? At some point we’re only feeding people what they expect and want instead of whats unexpected, fresh, new, challenging, passionate. Art can’t exists forever by just catering. The artist seems to still be creating regardless of the environment or economic climate.

      • that’s when we look at the classic debate of which comes first, and whether art imitates life or life imitates art. then —- i gotta pee.

        i have four books posted on my blog. i wrote them knowing zero about the market. i wrote them when something happened and i looked at it and said, “i wonder what would happen if someone….?”

  4. You’re right in your assertion, this is a challenge I face personally. I began blogging about a year ago and my original reason for doing so was to provide a venue for me to vent, or rather to express feelings I had been having, in a forum that intrigued me. It was also a means that may in some way help someone else, and show them that there were others with similar problems or challenges. Over time though it became about something else, if only in some subtle way. It also became about “likes” and “followers”, and while these are good (even great) the writing becomes almost secondary to the original intent.
    Thank you for the timely reminder, writing is about writing for oneself, production is the act of producing writings for someone else.

  5. I love this and really needed to read this today.My writing group often discusses how leaving yourself and your passion out the mix makes for really dull writing.Churning something out because it’s popular or you think it will sell is hogwash.
    Readers can see right through writers who don’t give a crap about their subject matter. It’s the voices that are unique and authentic that stand out on bookshelves and coincidentally don’t do so bad in the sales department either.

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