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writing and discomfort

April 19, 2010

i was told, recently, that if “what i was writing wasn’t making me feel uncomfortable”, then i was wasting my time doing it.

this is a really, really interesting thought.

i tend to stray into uncomfortable realms when writing. my newest project, especially, has me researching the world of pornography, and while i’m comfortable with that, it’s inevitable that i’m going to have to put myself into my main female character at some point during the writing of this, and that is what makes me slightly uncomfortable.

but apparently, if i’m not making myself uncomfortable, it isn’t worth it?

this is something to really think about. as a writer (i cannot speak for the community, but i can speak for myself) i find that i am constantly pushing myself in directions. research, for example: of course it is going to be a little frightening to take my first look at a picture of someone who has just passed away of AIDS related illnesses. of course it is going to be a little odd, at first, to thoroughly research glory holes, cottaging, bath houses — and don’t think that i wouldn’t venture into the porn world for research for this, because i have. i like to research thoroughly, and of course some of these things are going to cause me a little discomfort. does every writer research or prepare like this? probably not. is every writer going to grow because of discomfort? probably not. will i? i don’t know.

why is writing worthwhile if it’s making me uncomfortable? is it because i’m pushing past pat boundaries, writing outside of my comfort zone? but why does this guarantee a better piece of writing? is it simply worthwhile because it’s forcing me to write new things, forcing me to shake up my preconceived notions of what is good or new or daring in my writing?

i’m still stuck on this.



One Comment leave one →
  1. April 19, 2010 9:26 pm

    “but why does this guarantee a better piece of writing?”

    It doesn’t, and I doubt that those who say you must write uncomfortably mean to imply that it does. It rather allowsor enables good writing, or at least that’s what they mean.

    But I think it’s a load of bullshit that it’s a waste of your time. Perhaps you won’t develop as a writer, but you may still communicate something worthwhile to your readers, and that in the end is what determines–or guarantees, if you prefer–the quality of writing. (I don’t necessarily mean didacticism, as you could be communicating a mood or perspective or something.)

    Writing uncomfortably could be necessary to growth, though I think you’d need to define “uncomfortable” more broadly. It’s not just a case of squeamishness; writing a non-white narrator would be for me an uncomfortable experience, at least as first, as I have difficulty with that point of view. For others, the struggle could be honesty, as their own deeply-held beliefs may differ from the attitudes the project so that they can get along in society. (I imagine you had already thought of this paragraph.)

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