I was at a writer’s conference once when I overheard a woman mutter, “If I hear one more presenter say to write your book from your heart I’ll just puke.”
I could sympathize. This particular piece of advice has been so often repeated its meaning has been worn as smooth as any cliché. Plus there is something naïve and toothless about it. Publishing is a business, after all, a business all we writers want to succeed at. Is this the advice you would give to an aspiring CEO or ambitious middle manager?
The trouble is there is no avoiding the fact that to participate in this business writers must write books. And if writers must write books, from where besides the heart would these books come?
Could you write a book from your head? The brain is a deep warehouse of ideas and memories. The brain can memorize and follow rules and formulas. The brain can tell an apple from an orange. Unfortunately, the brain cannot tell us whether we should eat an apple or an orange. So many words and ideas are apples and oranges, and so much of writing is deciding between the two. To write a novel from your head is to be paralyzed with indecision.
So perhaps we should write from our loins. Is this not, quite literally, our creative center? Have not the loins spoken to us, loudly, of preference? What book would not benefit from that carnal drive, that itch, that delicious yielding to temptation? Sex sells, and this is a business, and we want to sell. All well and good, but for all the energy the loins provide, they can still betray us, not because the loins are wicked, but because they are disconnected from life before and after The Event. The regret of a loveless, post-coital bed bears the same emptiness as a book written only from this place.
And so we are left with the heart. The heart alone knows what you prefer, from lovers to fruit, and the heart alone seems to bear no grudge if you ignore it. Strange that such a mighty and all-knowing instrument should be so forgiving. The pain we inevitably suffer from ignoring our heart, from writing from our head or our loins, is not the floods and pestilence of an angry god, but the cramps and contortions of a soul twisting itself into something it isn’t.