“You write out of need. You write out of hunger. It isn’t your brilliance; it’s the flaw in your makeup that drives you.”—from an interview with novelist Theodore Wessner in Novel Ideas: Contemporary Authors Share the Creative Process by Barbara Shoup and Margaret-Love Denman
Weesner goes on:
In terms of identifying talent in young writers, you can see the pain in their writing. You can see the desire, the hunger. It doesn’t have anything to do with how well they’re doing as students. At UNH, I taught English majors who were pretentious writers. They’d often write in the style of literary criticism—imitating literary criticism, trying to write what they thought a critic would be looking for. Then some kid would walk in from Engineering and just go for it, because he would have been drawn there by hunger, have a sense of the story he wanted to tell.
My own strategy and the thing I advise students to do is to identify things that hurt, that caused pain enough to make you change how you perceive the world. When did it hurt? What made it hurt? Who were the people involved? It can be a modest hurt; it can be a big hurt. A very personal hurt, private, secret. Once you can do that, you can begin to try to create and recreate a story through characters and action.