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Can a writer feel too much?

In a chapter on the desirability of the writer maintaining a certain detachment, especially when describing sad characters or scenes, Madeleine L’Engle in A Circle of Quiet says this:  “All the scenes that move me deeply while I am writing them end up in the wastepaper basket.”

Ye gods and little fishes!

Notwithstanding that it always gives me a galloping case of the heebie-jeebies to toss anything in the wastepaper basket, to throw out that which moves me, brings tears to my own eyes, would be like drowning a kitten!  I’m all for detachment, and I do see the value of standing back a bit when we describe human darkness lest the loss of objectivity drive us to a dangerous identification.  But why shouldn’t a writer feel deep emotion when she creates something meant to break the hearts of her readers? 

In my story “Blood of the Lamb,” I describe a scene where a woman, pregnant with a female messiah, faces the horrific choice of permitting the damnation of humanity or aborting her own child.  I trembled to write it.  I tremble now to recall it.  It’s one of my most powerful pieces and the only one to have received a nomination for the Pushcart Prize.  I can’t imagine tossing it aside simply because it evoked such a profound response in me.

I’m willing to admit I may be missing something here, or misunderstanding the whole idea.  I do that from time to time.  But if the writer doesn’t feel, and feel deeply, what is there to write about?

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One Comment

  1. the elder scrolls
    Posted October 24, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good. I do not know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

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