Not necessarily shown to your best advantage…

Reading time: About 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 written by Tim Kreider.

I hadn’t heard of Tim Kreider until I regularly started reading the New York Times Opinionator column. But I now consider myself a fan. Kreider is an essayist and a cartoonist and I appreciate his amusing and gently thoughtful world-view.

I’ve quoted from his writing before, here, here, and here, and was pleased to discover a new piece he’d written in the June 9/14 Times, headlined “Controlling the Narrative.”

Kreider has a particularly deft hand with metaphor, as he exhibits here:

I’ve found myself looking down the wrong end of art on occasion, as when a friend asked my permission to write about the bungled affair we’d had years before. Reading the finished story was a lot like getting a root canal — not exactly painful (especially since I was well anesthetized), just very, very uncomfortable. It’s frankly not pleasant to be accurately depicted. It’s like seeing a candid snapshot of yourself rather than looking in the mirror — you are not necessarily shown to your best advantage.

I agree with his speculation that, perhaps, writers are less able to handle their emotions than other people. As Kreider puts it, “Eloquently articulating a feeling is one way to avoid actually experiencing it. Words are only symbols, noises or marks on paper, and turning the messy, ugly stuff of life into language renders it inert and manageable for the author, even as it intensifies it for the reader.”

I think he’s onto something. Readers, do you agree?