Sell Your Heart

Can you write down your emotional pain, speak of your childhood fears on the pages of a book. The loss of a love one, the abuse of your youth, are you willing to openly display them for others to read. Can you sell your heart?

F. Scott Fitzgerald told a young writer that when she asked for his opinion on her work, he responded in a letter.

I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell………….I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming.  You have talent—which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.”

Wow! His words might sound harsh but they are so very true. When I read the words from this noted writer today, it touched me so profoundly. It made me rethink writing. Then I remember what it took to get my words on the page. I wrote about being brave, when fear shocked me, that others wouldn’t like my work. I wrote about obsessions, when being consumed by words every minute of every day, left me a shell.  I wrote of passions, when the love of my life came from the imaginings of my mind and the words I used to describe them. Everything that made me human I poured into the words.

Sometimes I felt like the words were bleeding right through my very skin onto the pages. Writing isn’t easy, it requires blood, sweat and tears, and it’s painful as hell.  Although, it all feels like you are selling your heart for the work, it still might not be enough to make you a successful writer.

I read Fifty Shades of Grey; she did not sell her heart, but perhaps her soul.  Sex sells, we know that, but her book wasn’t written well. She didn’t pour her blood into those pages. Reading it reminded me of Faust, what will you sell your soul for? Alright, I might be overreacting and envious, but the work should account for something.

I happen to read somewhere, that art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.  And I agree, whether you are a sculptor, a painter, a poet or writer, whatever you do as an artist it should stimulate an emotional response. It should make people feel, to see what’s possible in a world they never knew. It should build up and tear down, give hope and take it away, show us life in all of its glory. It should show the good, bad and ugly and that requires your heart.

So show us your inner self, the places where the sun rarely shines. Show us where we’re blind; make us feel your joys and fears, sell us your heart. Like F. Scott Fitzgerald said,  “That’s the price of admission,” because the alternative is just blank words on a page and nothing more.

You can read the full letter here

Copyright © 2013 Glynis Rankin

6 comments

  1. He is right, it really shows when a writer does write down the bones as Anne Lamott puts it. I think we could all improve from reading this now and then, even if we think we know it, there’s nothing like a reminder to bring it to the centre of our attention.

    Thanks for sharing your blog on SheWites, it’s wonderful to visit here.

    1. I like that saying. I agree, adding those areas of our soul kept apart, we can improve the content of the written word.
      Thank you so much for visiting Claire and adding your wonderful comment.

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