Monday, April 18, 2011

Seeking Understanding

Last week I attended a reading of Townie, the fabulous new memoir by Andre Dubus III. While it was wonderful hearing him read from his work, it was also enlightening listening to him talk about writing.

One quote about writing resonated with me in particular; it was from Hemingway who said, "The writer's job is not to judge, but to seek to understand."

With that statement I felt like a window was opened in a sauna, delivering me a much-needed cool breeze. For I have been obsessively judging one of my characters in a serial drama I'm currently writing. I've even told my students, "I hate her. She's such a bitch." And because I judge her to be selfish and mean toward her fiance, I can't begin to write her properly.

Until now. 

The quote completely frees me to examine this character's life and to seek to comprehend what she lives and experiences. I don't have to like her, but I do have to understand her. And through better understanding of her, I hope to empathize with her enough so that I can honestly write her story.

I'm actually already there. That one Hemingway line has illuminated my path. And reminded me of my job: to record the lives of my characters as they grow and breathe and live both in my head and, eventually, on the page.

"Our job is not to judge, but to seek to understand." Wouldn't it be nice if more than just writers would take that mantra to heart?

{And a small note of apology to those of you who check in for the weekly scriptwriting tip: I have been battling bronchitis for more than three weeks, and it has now developed into a sinus infection. I've never had bronchitis before; I had no idea what a walloping punch it delivered. Be well. Write daily. And read twice as much. Oh, and drink plenty of fluids....}

No comments:

Post a Comment