Write what you believe

Sep 1, 2010

Karen over at Typing with My Toes brought up an interesting question on her blog today-- how do you give your writing meaning without pushing an agenda? Nobody wants to be preached at, but a lot of people want to find meaning in a book. And as a writer, I want to write a book that has more than entertainment value.

My first creative writing professor in college gave me some of the best writing advice I've ever gotten on this subject. He said that rather than "write what you know," you should "write what you believe." That doesn't mean you have to write about religion or a political angle. People have strong beliefs about all sorts of ideas-- think of the book Feed. It had some very strong points to make about consumerism, but I never felt like I was being beat over the head with a moral.

Writing what you believe can be scary sometimes-- for me, the things I believe strongly are things that I'm afraid to write about. I'm putting out into the world something that means a great deal to me. What if people don't like it? What if they disagree? According to my professor, if you're afraid to write something, that's exactly what you need to write. It will have the most power. And you, as a writer, just have to have the courage to put it out there.

One thing I love about writing through the lens of my beliefs is that I don't tend to push an agenda when I write this way. That seems almost contradictory. The strange thing is, when I begin working on a story I feel strongly about, I don't focus on the beliefs. I'm focused on the story that has a background in those beliefs. Yet, those beliefs still come out-- in a non-pushy way.

So, friends, what's your take on this? How do you write the things you believe while not being didactic? How do you overcome your fears in order to do this?


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