Saturday, September 5, 2009

Lorrie Moore on Writing

Here's an interesting little piece about Lorrie Moore's views on writing. 

"The only really good piece of advice I have for my students is, 'Write something you'd never show your mother or father.' And you know what they say? 'I could never do that!'"

She's commenting on the close relationship young people today often have with their parents, but this closeness can breathe an eagerness to please not only the parents themselves, but authority in general. Moore's writing sometimes conveys a nasty view of humanity, one that would surely sadden any mother or father, but the nastiest parts are often the most funny and true. Insofar as it encourages students to stop trying to make people happy, Moore's advice is great — readers, like all humans, don't necessarily know what they want, and trying to please isn't a very good way of actually doing so.


S.P. Miskowski said...

Being a fiction writer does not mean that you won't have friends, but it does mean that you can't be terribly concerned about it. When I was speaking to some teens about writing, at a conference years ago, one of them asked the question about revealing things in their work that might upset or offend their parents. I gave them permission to not share their writing with their parents, if that were the case. If people close to you are too dense to understand the difference between fiction and life, why waste your time and energy arguing with them? Just lie. Keeping stories bottled up inside will lead to misery, and the effort will make you mean to others. Write it out, and get the joy and balance that comes from that. Then tell Granny and Uncle Joe: "Oh, no! That story isn't about YOU or ME or OUR SUPER NICE FAMILY. It's about something that happened to a guy I knew in high school. It was so weird and awful, I just thought SOMEBODY should write it down so people could learn from it." Whatever it takes. Just keep writing.

SM said...

That's great advice, S.P. I come from a large and loving family, and I've had my days when I've worried about what they'll think of my work. But I've found that when something *must* come out, when I absolutely have to write about a subject, I don't think about them till after it's written. It's like I've got a bodyguard in my brain protecting the idea until it's done. I don't think it's inherent, either. I think I've had to develop that, or I wouldn't be able to write. Early on, I also told my parents that a lot of writers say to write as if your parents are already dead. I don't think my mother loved that idea, but she respects it.

S.P. Miskowski said...

You have to do it, I agree. It's a matter of mental health. Or as I like to say: I write as a public service. Because if I didn't write I would probably be a serial killer. xx