Wednesday, January 15, 2020

What should 26 year-olds write about?

Over dinner tonight, Emma and I talked about writers and writing. We talked about 26 year-old writers who write about life planning, marriage, and children. 26 year-olds can write novels, sci-fi, books about the structure of the internet, or the history of something-or-other. But not life planning.

I mentioned a quote from Annie Dillard in The Writing Life:

"A writer looking for subjects inquires not after what he loves best, but after what he alone loves at all."

The kids giggled when I told them about Dillard's first book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She writes about the bugs crawling across the plants in one specific place. She writes about the fish in the creek and the plants at that one moment in time. She helps us see other places by writing about that one creek.

One book that does this well is Beth Macy's Dopesick. She wanted to explore and explain the opioid crisis. So she focused intensely on one place along an interstate in western Virginia. By showing that one place, we see every place. I can see the drugs and families on my street differently.

 I suggest that the world doesn't need writers to say more of the same things. The world needs a writer to take the slice of the world that they uniquely love and help others learn from and love it too. Who has something new to say about marriage or life planning or raising kids? Especially at 26? But you do have something unique to say about your marriage, your kids, your life journey.

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