Sunday, May 2, 2010

Wondering what to write about?

Washington Post staff writer Hank Stuever had this on his blog as part of a longer post about his return to New Mexico for a week recently. He talked to a group about writing, which is the context of what he says below. It's a fascinating bit of analysis and, really, advice. What do you think?

One of the things I brought up — which I still strongly believe — is that the best nonfiction stories (and probably the fictional stories and novels, too) usually come from the subjects that most worry, frighten or repulse the writer. And I think the most boring stories come from familiarity, when we set out to write about things we really love or are already in the tank for. I would guess that 90 percent of modern-day nonfiction, especially online, comes more from people typing about things they already believe strongly in, or hobbies they already have, or food and books and music and movies and gadgets they already get, understand and savor. The Internet won’t get much more interesting until people stop writing about what they adore (or are certain they despise, i.e., the other side of the political fence) and just go out and take notes on things they don’t know about, and are possibly afraid of.