On Writing: Whatever your gender…

To thine own self be true,
and it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
–William Shakespeare, Hamlet

I’ve been lucky enough to get to know a lot of writers over the years, male and female, and the truth be told, I’m often humbled by the talent I get to hang out with. One thing that has surprised me though, is the number of guys who feel nervous about writing ‘women’. Topics like motherhood and female sexuality have come up time and again as themes that some male writers shy away from — or at least have confidence issues with when the time comes to sharing the words.

I am a writer. I am a woman. I create female characters. I create male characters. I begin by looking inside myself for that nugget of humanity that interests me. I begin to envisage them until they become real, and when I finally get to ‘write’ them, it is from inside ‘their’ heads.

So as a female writer, what do I know about the male psyche?

Not a lot, probably; but I know about the complexity of human behaviour and relationships. About love, lust, joy, surprise, contentment, unease, disappointment, anger, sadness, fear, grief, vulnerability, frustration, obsession, jealousy, peace, acceptance,  respect, and the whole other gamut of emotional ups and downs that go hand-in-hand with living life.

With being human.

Ah, but don’t the sexes express these emotions differently?

Perhaps, yes, and that debate will go on and on, but as a writer, that is the golden nugget; finding out how, as men and women, we react differently, or the same, to whatever it is we are dealing with.

I’m a sponge for human behaviour and reaction. I love conversation — good conversation, that whatever the topic, reveals to me something about the person I am talking to. I am watching you, and I am learning from how you face the world. How you deal with the good, the bad and the batshit crazy that simply being alive manifests for you.

And I learn from myself.

How I deal with my own personal ups and downs teaches me so much, even when I don’t immediately know or see the learning that is taking place. Eventually, and inevitably, it all makes sense, and the knowledge gets stored in the back in of the brain until the next time it is needed. Be that in reality, or in the world of fiction.

And what is fiction, really? Isn’t it about feelings – emotions — whatever your gender?

I once heard a male film director declare that women didn’t make good screenwriters because they put too much emphasis on ‘feeling’ and ’emotion’. I will leave that declaration hanging there, yes right over there, by its weighted, gossamer string of bullshit…

Featured image sourced from http://instantjoy.tumblr.com/post/172332499/ying-yang-beetles and is not the copyright of the author.

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