Hello! I’m Karen Sirabian, Director of the Manhattanville College Master of Arts in Writing program, and I’ve been invited to post on your writer’s blog before my visit with you on Saturday, April 4, when I’ll be speaking about “Bring Your Writing to the Next Level.” I’ll save the who, what , when and how portion of that for my presentation. But I would like to share some thoughts about bringing our writing to the next level as writers, pursuing our craft.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and passion, and the immutable bond between them. What is it that separates a decent piece of writing from one that grabs you, that creates unforgettable character, that has voice, that leaves us feeling, after that we have read it, that we have changed, learned something, or have been truly entertained? The difference is passion—the writer’s passion—for the subject he has tackled, for the character she has given life to, for the idea that has caught hold or him or her. And by passion I don’t mean purple prose or heavily overwritten paragraphs—these are the trappings of passion; not the real thing.
For a writer, passion is more than just caring about the subject we have in front of us. It is the relentless pursuit of that subject, for the truth that is revealed to us in the mysterious process of writing. Writing is a process of discovery, and powerful writing is not letting go of a subject until you have made it your own, until you “know it” –which is what I think is really meant, by the way, by “write what you know.” When we are passionate about knowing our subject, understanding our character, we write powerfully–whether we are writing an essay, a short story, a poem, or a magazine article about travel to Fiji.
Everything we write is informed by everything we think. And at some point in all writing a moment comes when the thought process becomes difficult, or uncomfortable, or even unpleasant . We all know where these moments are—they are when you suddenly take a break because the dog is barking, or you decide this is the moment to make that third cup of coffee. These moments–moments when we want to “duck the issue”–are marked in our manuscripts by telltale signs: three asterisks, a sudden gap in time, sentences like “he was silent,” “she looked away,” “I don’t know why it appealed to me.” Not to say that these turns aren’t sometimes called for; they may be. But examine them carefully. Many times they will represent a moment when we, the author, have come head to head with a truth that must be pursued in order to “bring our writing to the next level,” but which we shy away from, even if subconsciously. Here is where passion must overrule reason–if we are to do our job as writers!
I hope to meet some of you on Saturday at Fairfield Library where my colleague and I will be discussing some of the more hands-on aspects of writing, publishing, and the writing life. If we miss each other, you can always reach me at email@example.com. And thanks for listening!