Sunday, 17 October 2010
Why Writers are Drama Queens
I'm reading a fascinating book at the moment: Three Uses of the Knife - On the Nature and Purpose of Drama by playwright David Mamet. It's not an easy read - when it's finished I'm going to read it again because I really want to understand what he's saying - but it's worth the effort because he has some profound ideas about the nature of drama and why we need it.
Novels are dramas on the page instead of the stage. The novel form may be relatively new but dramas are as old as humanity and meet some psychological need we all share. Don't we dramatise everything in our lives? Don't we love to hear gossip? And doesn't it explain the success of soap operas?
I think writers are particularly prone to this, which accounts for the compulsion to write stories. Our minds are like super-computers, piecing together the intricate jigsaws of the world around us, embellishing the mundane with flights of fancy. And spending so much time alone in our imaginary dramatic worlds makes us different. We live in our heads. It can render us prickly and neurotic when we come up against the real world. Writers are sensitive souls, prone to exaggeration and flouncing out if our feelings are hurt or our sensibilities affronted. I see this behaviour on writers' boards all the time.
We need delicate handling. It's sad that the world doesn't usually afford us that gentleness. The submissions process is particularly painful to the sensitive artist, and all around us are obstacles and injustices designed to break our spirit. But it doesn't have to be so bad. We should be aware of our own vulnerability and act accordingly, learn strategies to shield our fragile egos. We can treat our fellow writers with generosity and kindness. We can be the change we want to see in this harsh Writing World.