My big secret

musical notesI cannot resist musicals.  They have a strange effect on me.  From the time I went with school as an impressionable 14 year old to see the opera version of Midsummer Night’s Dream, any time I see a musical I end up falling head over heels in love with at least one of the cast.

It’s true.  I can’t help it. I used to work with amateur theatres, and one pantomime season I fell in love with the principal boy.  And yes, it was played by a woman.

There’s just something about the power of the poetry in the lyrics, combined with the lure of the music, that pulls me along with it, until I melt.  As they sing their emotions, I feel those emotions touching me, until I almost suffocate under the weight of them.

We’re currently watching the 10th anniversary concert of Les Miserables, and it’s Javert that grabs me.  There’s usually one central character – whether I identify them, or whether for some other reason, they take a firm hold of me and I can’t escape.  It’s the sort of experience that can lead to those bitter-sweet crushes that people usually associate with teenagers.

I watched the musical episode of Buffy, and got dragged into watching the whole 7 seasons.  I’m hooked on Glee.  I’ll watch musicals avidly.

I’m just a little wary of live musical productions these days – to experience those in a crowd amplifies the experience, until I’m totally overwhelmed and can’t handle it.

If I could produce something that could produce that emotional reaction in someone?  Yeah, that would be beyond cool.  That’s where I’m starting to understand this “write what you know” business.  It means that if you can feel a place, or an emotion, or a situation, your writing is much more powerful because it comes from the heart and can penetrate much more powerfully.  How can you expect a reader to respond to an emotion if you as a writer can’t feel it?  So yeah, writing at times can be painful.  But it can also be cathartic.  And the painful writing is also the powerful writing.  I’ve noticed with reading blogs that it’s when the writer really opens themselves up honestly, that they’re often afraid of the reactions of others, but their writing is so amazingly powerful that the reader can’t help but react to the emotion in it.

It doesn’t mean you can’t write about something if you haven’t experienced it, but it does mean you can’t possibly write successfully about something if you can’t feel it yourself deep inside where it really hurts, whether that be a painful hurt or a pleasant hurt.  As a writer I believe you must develop your feeling muscle, so that with experience and practice you can bury yourself deeper inside the emotions you haven’t personally experienced, but for beginners?  Yeah, probably better to stick to writing what you know, or at least what you feel. Because that’s what writing’s about, isn’t it?  Getting to the truth, the feeling, rather than the exact facts?


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