Those are award-winning author Richard Bausch’s two “rules for writing.” Sounds easy, until you try it at home.
What a treat it was to hear him read from his work and discuss writing at Republic Coffee last Thursday night. Bausch currently serves as The Moss Chair of Excellence in the Writing Program at The University of Memphis. I was introduced to him through a friend and fellow writer and artist, Emma French Connelly. Emma took one of my icon workshops at St. John in March of 2008, and then we “met” again on Facebook recently and have had a soul connection ever since. She took two of Bausch’s fiction writing classes at the University of Memphis, and sent me a link to the Facebook event page for his reading last week.
Bausch started out by reading a short-short story of his called “1951,” which can be found in his book, “The Stories of Richard Bausch.” I was instantly intrigued, since that’s the year I was born! The way this story came about it interesting in itself: the editor at Esquire Magazine called him and asked for a 200-word story. Bausch sent him two, and they turned them both down, saying they were “too dark.” Bausch doesn’t like “flash fiction,” and feel that it takes more words to get the story told. But he loves the short story format, saying it’s like a good novel.
Some of the advice he gave as he talked and fielded questions from the thirty or so folks who showed up at Republic to hear him read included this:
“As a writer, you visit trouble upon your characters. Don’t think ‘conflict.’ Think extreme. Bad. TROUBLE.”
He said that if the writer believes in himself, if his work moves him deeply, it will move others.
He also stressed the importance of being CLEAR when you write, even if it takes 75 times (revisions) to get it right, which is often does.
Trust the form itself.
“If you let go enough to write fiction—for itself—you can surpass your own moral limitations and see beyond what holds you back as a person.”
One listener asked, “How do you hold onto the voice of your characters in this age of sensory overload?”
Bausch answered, “I’m not myself. I only think about the characters and their story when I’m writing.”
His parting words of advice to fledgling writers? Imitate good writing. And read.
Oh, and his 2 “rules of writing”:
P.S.: These photographs of graffiti art on trains were on display inside Republic Coffee, by photographer Lauren Beyer … an added treat for me, on my first visit to Republic since they moved to Walnut Grove.