On Amplification and Other Questions

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Jami AttenbergToday on her stellar “Craft Talk” substack newsletter, Jami Attenberg talks, among other things, about questions writers should be asking themselves. Things like:

In the past I have had students ask me if I think they should quit their day jobs and focus on their writing. It almost always feels like a horse before a cart situation. The list of questions we should be asking ourselves as writers before we can get to that point is long.

I’m talking about: Should this book be in first person or third and do I need to start all over again to see which one works better? Is my language amplified enough? Am I writing with enough empathy? Does the middle of my book sag? Does the beginning of the book entice? Do I believe in love? Do I believe in ghosts? Have I blurred the line enough between the real-life person I’m fictionalizing and their corresponding character? Am I landing every sentence, idea and feeling? Am I reading enough poetry?

The piece is ostensibly aimed at writers wondering if they should quit their job. (Answer: yes. Maybe. It depends.) For me it created a beautiful touchstone I plan on coming back to at certain points of my own writing. We all need to remember: amplification. Empathy. Sagging bits and so on. And since I’m creating a touchstone, I thought I’d share it here. That way I’ll know where it is and we can enjoy it together.

Attenberg (All This Could Be Yours, I Came All This Way to Meet You) is sharp, funny and trenchant. Her books are everywhere, but you can subscribe to her newsletter here. ◊