“Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all…as long as you tell the truth.”
– Stephen King, On Writing
Two weeks ago, when I was visiting my brother in New York, I asked him what he thought of my blog. He said that he liked it, but that he enjoyed the posts about my hip more than my recent posts. He said that I am now writing for too narrow of an audience, and that my posts are becoming sentimental.
He said, “If you want to attract more readers, you should spice it up a little.”
My brother and I have a lot of things in common, one of which is that we both love Mordecai Richler. Richler created compelling characters who are witty, tragic, and brutally honest. Although fiction, many of his novels are layered with personal experience, and the main characters offer a window into the author. To “spice it up,” Graham was suggesting that I write more like Mordecai.
Graham was not recommending that I try to recreate Mordecai’s style, he was suggesting that I write more honestly, that I tap into some uncomfortable truths, and that I embrace Stephen King’s warning in On Writing: “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered…”
Although non-fiction, like Mordecai, I have been writing about my life experiences. Lately, those experiences have been dominated by my recovery from hip resurfacing surgery. I’m happy that my surgery was a success. My functioning hip reminds me about the other things in my life that I am grateful for, particularly, my family, my friends, and my health. So I write about them.
In this article, Karen Green, David Foster Wallace’s widow, said that, “People don’t want to be thought of as sentimental. Writers don’t anyway.”
But regarding her husband’s writing, she said, “I thought the inner sap should be allowed out sometimes…it’s those bits of the book I loved the best.”
In my recent posts, I may have let out my inner sap, but it was how I truly felt. I may have been sentimental, but I was honest.
I will likely remain a healthy member of polite society, but I don’t want to dismiss my brother’s criticism. His comments were fair. He wasn’t suggesting that I open my private life to the public, or that I be crass for the sake of. He was challenging me to think more broadly about what I might write.
If I had a criticism, it would be that I have lost some direction. When I started, it was helpful to focus on a specific topic, but now, I am wading into unknown waters. The Hipping Post has become an experiment in writing and an avenue for me to explore the craft. I’ll continue to write about topics that I enjoy, and that I think are worth sharing. But it’s good to know that I can write about anything I damn well want, as long as I tell the truth.