Michelle Wittle On Writing

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In the novel The Bell Jar by one of my literary heroes, Sylvia Plath, she has this one scene in the book where the main character is sitting posing for a picture. Ester is in New York at her internship and it is near the end of it. The magazine wants to take a picture of the girls that would showcase why they are working at the magazine. For instance if a girl is there to work on putting outfits together, the photographer would take a picture of her in action picking out an outfit. Ester is there as a writer, so the photographer thinks he should have her sitting on a couch with a rose in her hand to portray her as deep in a poetic thought. Well, Ester tells us that while she is sitting on the couch, she fells like she wants to cry. She can’t explain why she fells the tears coming; they just are coming. She fells angry and annoyed and on the verge of just hollering. While she is in these thoughts, the photographer looks over his lens at her and asks her to show him how happy it makes her to write a poem. In a nutshell, that is also how I see writing.

            I hate when people think it is romantic or indulgent to be a writer. People think that it has to be wonderful to sit in a café and just type away on a computer while you are sipping some crazy mixture of coffee and milk. But here’s the deal…writing isn’t pretty at all. Well, maybe I should clarify that a bit more. I have never found writing to be pretty at all. Sure, I love the idea that writing is so sweet and innocent. But for me, it isn’t like that at all.

            In the movie, Capote, Truman is talking to his partner and he tells him how he needs to go to Spain and work on his novel. His partner asks why he can’t just stay and write in New York and when Truman tells him he just can’t, his partner just says okay. When I first watched that part I was taken aback. I was thinking, how crazy and cool that is to just up and go to Spain and write. Then, well, let’s just say I fully understood why Truman just needed to get away and why he couldn’t just stay in New York. He isn’t being a spoiled self-indulgent priss who just wants to travel. He needs to remove himself from every distraction to focus on the book at hand.

            For me, writing can be like a bloodletting. It’s painful and it happens in a huge rush. It spills on the screen and you want to try and get some paper towels or something, but there are just too many words and images. I have stayed awake for three days straight because a novel I was writing wouldn’t let me sleep. My characters never do what I want them to do. Just recently, I had this whole short story planed out. I knew the beginning, middle, and for once I even had an ending. As I started writing it, my main character shot me ”the finger” and did what he wanted to do.

            Writing is not romantic. Although it does demand much of one’s attention as a lover may do; however, writing seems more like a spoiled only child. It wants every toy in the store. It wants a grilled cheese sandwich with Kraft Deli American cheese and no crust and then it changes its mind after I have made the grilled cheese to wanting ham and cheese toasted on rye bread with a pickle. But I do as it asks because I have to do it. I love my child and it is my fault really that I have spoiled it so much. But I can’t help it, writing is just so adorable and it is a big part of me. Writing is my creation and after all, it is an only child.                  

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9 thoughts on “Michelle Wittle On Writing

  1. I agree. Writing is s much a part of you that when you write you are pouring part of your soul onto the paper. Writing comes from the soul. It is a memory, a feeling, and when it comes out it is like a regurgitation onto the page. It is painful, uplifting and soul wrenching into one. Well said.

  2. You mean you are not sitting in the local cafe or in your beachfront home while writing?!?! Your brilliant, especially the analogy with your only child. I have one too!

  3. In my experiences the child usually wants the peanut butter and jelly and will end up just eating fruit snacks and feed the sandwich to the dogs…

  4. Michelle,

    I found your analogies to be spot on! Especially what you wrote in the Truman reference when explaining why he needed to go to Spain to write: ‘He isn’t being a spoiled self-indulgent priss who just wants to travel. He needs to remove himself from every distraction to focus on the book at hand.’ ~~ as you know removing yourself from all distraction is exactly what the only child demands! Excellent blog!

  5. I love your personification of writing, making it analogous to a child, your only child. I too have the same child, but unlike you, I’ve neglected and then finally abandoned my child because she wouldn’t be pretty for me and I didn’t know how to take care of her. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. I am split: In both my artwork and in my writing, I agree with Michelle –but only in part:

    There are definite times when I have poured my soul out onto the canvas – i found and identified with the child analogy very much – but the hardest part for me is letting go – it’s like some surreal post part em experience for me -and closings and resolutions mean the end of the ride and time to finish – I am a bitter griever… instead I am the CHILD and my writing or artwork is the adult…

    I do enjoy the experiences and the passion and process of creation and the journey of discovery and revelation and betrayal my characters present to me when they need to be heard – to use michelle’s excellent comparison

    Even as I may change story telling positions they always let me know… just as the colors in my paintings don’t lie… and they tell me when its just shit and i have to scrape it and start again of if the colors achieve harmony.

    However, maybe it’s an art or guy thing – I love the battle – I am a sucker for passion and sometimes passion in anger, frustration, distraction, fear of failure, and denial just get my fires burning even more… I am stubborn and even will intentionally immerse myself in a situation of almost masochistic indulgence and translatable exposure because I always know the end result justifies the means… I guess i really am the child rather than the parent in my authorship…

    Coming Up for Air:
    I relate and empathize with Michelle… it used to paralyze me a long time ago when I couldn’t “Get Away” or get the exact materials I thought I needed to compose and design and craft and fashion – But I just decided I didn’t want anything to have that kind of power over me… Its kind of like death – after surviving near death experiences 3 times – no way would anything hold me back from enjoying a “ride” and opportunity to create a new journey like a good painting or an adventurous or romantic an subtle novel…

    Hope I didn’t kill any dogz, M… but I love and know the Lords of Dogtown… and its skate to live – live to skate…c’iao

  7. Michelle, you’ve put into words what it is to put things into words. I enjoyed reading that. Writing can be exercise or exorcism, depending on your own state of mind.. I am finding, in my own work, that your analogy to child raising is true. In fact, it’s a bit more like pregnancy, where an idea is conceived, and grows, and must be born or else it becomes painful. Drawing is the same way.

    I also loved Sylvia Plath. Poor soul.

    Write more!

    -EVS

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