Writer’s Desk: Go Deep and Go True, But Make it Good

Tom Waits, 2008 (ntoper)

Back in 2001, J. T. LeRoy was the literary world’s mysterious enfant terrible (The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things). That was not long before the transgressive little gutterpunk Bukowski facade was exposed in the most fascinating literary hoax since, well, just about ever.

Before that happened, though, Vanity Fair had Tom Waits interview the person then calling themselves LeRoy. A couple things jumped out of that exchange. First, this:

Tom Waits: The world is a hellish place, and bad writing is destroying the quality of our suffering. It cheapens and degrades the human experience, when it should inspire and elevate. You are an exception.

J. T. LeRoy: Wow, thanks. One thing I realized is that to just have merely suffered isn’t enough…. [I was given] a book by this guy who had been in prison and writing about his experiences. He had a really horrible life, but it was so horribly written that I just didn’t care.

Your experience matters, as does that you’ve just heard about, but if you can’t write about it in a way that makes anyone attention, it will never be noticed.

Make the pain count.

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