You will be writing about your own life anyway…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss an article and video about Kurt Vonnegut…

I have a confession to make: I’ve never read a single book by Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007).  (I plan to correct that this year by reading Slaughterhouse Five.) But I’m very familiar with his writing advice, much of which I find to be thoughtful and helpful.

I was intrigued to find a recent Brain Pickings piece on Vonnegut, focusing on a revealing talk he gave to students at New York University. The talk was recorded and broadcast on New York’s WBAI public radio station and has recently been turned into a video animation by a group known as Blank on Blank.

I didn’t use my stopwatch while viewing the video but I estimate it takes about six minutes. It’s very entertaining. Here is the most insightful comment I thought he gave:

I’ve heard that a writer is lucky because he cures himself every day with his work. What everybody is well advised to do is to not write about your own life — this is, if you want to write fast. You will be writing about your own life anyway — but you won’t know it.

So true. You cannot hide yourself when you write. Your attitude, your sensibility, your worldview, is revealed in every sentence you create. (This is equally true for both fiction and non-fiction writers, by the way.) If you have six minutes to spare, watch this video, delivered in Vonnegut’s trademark wry style.

And if you’re feeling ultra-enthusiastic, the same page also contains a link to the full 50-minute recording of Vonnegut’s remarks.