A few weeks ago, I attended the Write Now! conference in Raleigh, NC. David Morrell, prolific thriller author and the mind behind Rambo, was the keynote speaker. He also taught several workshops, which I was lucky enough to attend. Talk about words of wisdom — I must have scribbled several pages of notes, and I bought his book so I could read more!
Probably the most interesting (and possibly, valuable) lesson I learned from Mr. Morrell was his idea, “Every person has a dominant emotion.” According to Morrell, all writers have some “defect” that pushes them to be writers. Otherwise, why would we sit alone for hours a day, writing in virtual solitary confinement? For Morrell, his dominant emotion is fear — fear based on traumatic early childhood experiences with an abusive step-father. That’s what drew him to write thrillers, a genre where the main character must escape at all costs, where his/her life is at stake. Morrell says that we all have things inside ourselves “that are desperate to be communicated.” That’s why it is so important for writers to write for themselves, and not to please others.
“Are you willing to be open to yourself?” Morrell asked the crowd that Saturday. He encouraged us to have the courage to write what we’d always wanted to say. He gave the example of Edith Wharton “breaking ranks” and writing about the oppressive, superficiality of the wealthy society she grew up in. As Morrell talked, I tried to figure out what my dominant emotion was; what were the words I’d always wanted to say but had been afraid to write? If you want to be a writer, it’s worth finding out!