What We Write About (or, as I was taught to say, About Which We Write)

For last few days I’ve been thinking about the idea that we “choose” what we write about. I remember reading an interview in Poets and Writers magazine with several agents in which an agent remarked that she was surprised by some of the topics her writers “chose” to write about, which reminded me of how sometimes people would say things to me like it was interesting that I “chose to write about my divorce.”

Chooses? Who’s choosing? Yes, if I were commissioned to write an article about animal husbandry, I suppose I’d be choosing. But, I’m not sure memoirists choose. And, I’m not sure I want to read a memoir where the topic was chosen by the writer. My topic (divorce) took me by the throat and said: write me, write me now. And everything about how the book came to be published (with bizarre ease, almost as if it had a will of its own–i will tell that story in a future post)made me think that some topics are just fighting their way into the world and us writers are merely conduits with little more volition than drainpipes.

Which brings me back to the blog. Like I said the focus is all things literary and I thought I’d sort of be “choosing” topics one by one in the sort of dispassionate way one chooses what to make for dinner (or at least that’s rather dispassionate for me, in fact rather dreaded). But since I rather dispassionately chose to write about the idea that most writers seem to have had a period of childhood illness, despair or alienation, Alienated Youth–my story of moving from a city to a mill town my senior year of high school–has taken on a life of its own. Sometimes, I’m like uh uh, the blog is about writing. And Alienated Youth is like write me, write me now.

If you’re new to the blog, I invite you to go back and read from the beginning or at least start with Alienated Youth is My Drink post, so you’ll be able to follow the ongoing story.

And, I invite you to tell me: What topics have chosen you? Or do you feel like you get to choose?

Sunday! I’m making a pie today! I’m choosing that.

About Theo Pauline Nestor

Author of Writing Is My Drink (Simon & Schuster) and How to Sleep Alone in a King-Size Bed. Learn more about my courses, editing, and coaching at TheoNestor.com.
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1 Response to What We Write About (or, as I was taught to say, About Which We Write)

  1. Theo:I totally make the connection between your youth and literary urges. Actually, doesn't everything stem from our alienated youths??? Can you even be a writer if you have a normal childhood? Nah, don't think so. Love the installments…and totally relate.Natalie

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