Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Heart Or Head? Maybe Both!

What came first the chicken or the egg? Old, old question which came to mind when I read in a reference book for writers that one should 'write with your heart and edit with your head.' Which is more important?

It makes perfect sense that we should use our hearts when we write. If we don't, there is no emotion, no passion. There is little to touch a reader's heart. When we write without heart, we are reporting a series of events. But when it comes from deep within, we bring the reader into the moment and allow them to feel what we felt. We give the reader something to remember.

Write from the heart. It sounds so easy, but it can be difficult if we can't open our hearts enough to write with passion, no matter the subject. To write this way means we must bare our soul. Some writers might want to bare a little but not all. Get a reader partway there and then cut them off, and you won't get accolades. Give them the whole thing, and they'll be yours forever.

Let's assume you have written an emotion-filled personal essay. You let it all out, allowed your deepest feelings to surface in the words you tapped out on your keyboard. This is where the head part enters the picture. After you allow the piece to simmer on its own a few days, you need to go back and do some editing. This time, you need to listen to your head, not your heart. You might have a phrase that is pure poetry but doesn't belong in the essay. It hurts to strike it out, but if your head tells you it doesn't fit with the rest, axe it.

Use your head and look at the essay or story with the eyes of a reader, not a writer. Ask yourself what the reader is going to think. Then revise, cut, add--whatever will make your work better.

Which one is more important? I think they get equal billing. Trust your heart when writing, but use your head when you edit.

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