Strangely enough, this English Major in college has never read any of Kurt Vonnegut's books. That is, until my daughter's boyfriend gifted me at Christmas with two slender volumes of his works.
I read Like Shaking Hands With God in one easy sitting. The books provides a transcript of a moderated conversation about writing between two authors, Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer. The conversation takes place in NYC in 1998.
Here's my big take-away from this book - write first for yourself. It's one thing to know your target audience inside and out, but what if we don't know ourselves because we don't listen to, or choose to ignore, our insides? Vonnegut urges writers to keep it sincere - "You cannot fool a reading audience!"
When asked why he writes, Lee Stringer explains:
For me, the reason I do it is it's the first thing I completely chose to do on my own: tried on my own, made up myself, and kind of found that I could do all right at it. That's about ninety percent of it. I guess there's ten percent in the fact that I find that it's very good for me. So that leaves maybe half a percent where I hope it'll be good for you guys. I don't mean to be stingy, but I found that when I try to do it the other way, I overdo it, and then it's good for no one.
I underline this passage in ink. I feel liberated by these words. It feels real. I like real.
Vonnegut writes because he thinks readers need to hear this message:
I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people don't care about them. You are not alone.
I write to plunge down below the surface and see what I discover when I bring it up to the light. Stringing pieces of myself together to see how they fit, if they fit. And telling others about what's real for me, true for me. Finding ways to connect to myself in order to connect to you. Knowing that we are in this together
And always intending . . . to keep SPIRIT in gear.
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