Today I’m thinking about how writing is like eating. There are lots of ways to take this simile.
We can go the modernist route and suggest that art is the very bread of life, that words provide an almost spiritual sustenance to us. Personally I think that’s a bit over the top and puts a wee bit too much pressure on writing. But the writing as nourishment angle is interesting.
We could argue that some authors have almost compulsive styles of writing, so that Hemingway or Raymond Carver are anorexic in the sparseness of their prose and refuse to add any morsel that isn’t absolutely necessary to the life of their work. Other writers gorge themselves (and their readers) on a literary style that refuses to hold anything in, creating incredibly long, convoluted sentences that would make Hemingway or Carver nauseous.
And there are of course the great majority of us, who enjoy good meals and good writing and aspire to create both but, generally, seem to be missing the secret ingredient. This all came from my sense that I am, I here confess, an emotional writer. I don’t emotionally eat, I emotionally write. What does that mean? Simply that writing often helps smooth away the rough spots of the day for me and often gives me the space to step back and gain a little perspective. I need that. It’s a productive, therapeutic synergy for me: writing helps me process the emotions; the emotions become fuel for the writing.
This can be a dangerous game, though. No one wants to read regurgitated, stream-of-conscious wailing at the universe. Good writing, like good cooking, necessitates preparation. The menu needs to be thought about in advance and you can’t forget to clean-up after the cooking is finished. If you’re lucky, people will want to come back for more.