Hard Truth About Writing: John Dufresne Edition

a piece of someone else's life

This is a saying about purchasing artwork.  It also speaks to my point, so I stole it.

I don’t say, I’m not really an investment banker, Martin. I’m a writer, and I’m going to steal your story. I just listen. – John Dufresne; Requiem, Mass

Writers are the most evil, vile, self-centered, cannibalizing people in the world.  We’ll take your life, your heart, and your soul, if it will make us look good on the page.  In The Lie That Tells a Truth (one of the best books on the writing life ever written), John Dufresne offers Ten Commandments of writing.  The seventh is “Thou Shalt Steal,” and he clarifies that thus:

Dufresne's 7th Commandment

If that’s too much text for you, then there’s this from Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist (one of the best gifts you could ever give a creative person):

kleon good theft bad theft

Of course the point Kleon and Dufresne (the the folks Dufresne quotes) are saying that a successful writer should catch his rabbit.  As Stephen King said.  Meaning, you need to read as many books as you can get your hands on.  Study the craft, so you can contribute to the pantheon.  And all of that is true, great, and necessary to get creative.  My point is this – the narrator in Requiem, Mass who steal’s Martin’s story?  That’s every writer ever.  The interesting story you tell me this week will one day help my character be more believable and interesting.  But if you believe Kate Christensen, then all I need to do is change your physical traits and you’ll never spot yourself.

So now that you know that, let’s go out for drinks.  I’m buying.

Tell me everything.


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