Right from the Heart
From the heart
Beauty rises …
At the 2019 Dublin Writers’ Conference, some speakers said it was important, from the point of view of sales, to write in a particular genre; others said it was vital to not follow a trend or write in a genre alien to you, that what mattered most was the ‘heart’ in what you had to say.
I agree. Apart from the fact that it’s impossible to sustain your motivation and write something in which you’ve no emotional investment, it’s not necessarily the case that a genre novel will succeed. Fashions change, the zeitgeist shifts.
Luck comes into it when you serendipitously find that you have written something that appeals at a particular moment in time, in the style which you are comfortable in.
A writer I met recently said that she was so focused on making a living, it contaminated everything she wrote. She couldn’t decipher what came from her authentic self and what was from the commercial ‘other side’. Although she thought she was writing from her heart, it wasn’t clear to her if she’d got the balance right. She asked me how she’d find out…
Well, I was intrigued by her dilemma and wanted to help. What came to mind was the photo I’d just shot: a hawthorn in full bloom. Now, many gardeners take pride in showing the exotic trees they have in their garden, they can even tell you their (usually unpronounceable) Latin names and if they came across a hawthorn which had seeded itself amongst their prized possessions, it would be quickly dispatched to the compost heap as not ‘worthy’ enough, ‘too ordinary’, a ‘weed’ tree.
I think you’ll agree, a hawthorn in full bloom is a joy to behold. Bees love it and the honey made from its blossom is outstandingly delicious. After the blossom, the bounty continues with berries in autumn and, when it dies, the heat from its wood is so intense you could cook a three course meal on one log alone. Exotics cannot compare.
So, I suggested to the writer that she nourish the simple, the ordinary, the beauty on her doorstep; write (as Elizabeth Strout did with Olive Kitteridge) a book which you may doubt will find a publisher - and see what happens.