Wells Tower on writing

I remember when I first started I got in a funny psychosis where I believed I was no longer capable of having an emotion, because every time I had one, I took out my mental notepad and was writing down what it was like to be hurt or happy. And on the craft side, I learned a few things. But it has its downside, too. After a couple years in an MFA program, you get good at armor-plating your stories and figuring out how to write stories that no one can poke a hole in. And your writing can become really disingenuous. I think there was a big-heartedness and sincerity in my early stories that got away from me, and once I got into graduate school I tried to write more clever things, and I think cleverness is something we’ve all got to be on-guard against. I think if you ask yourself what you want a reader to take away from your story, and your answer is that you want the reader to believe you’re a good writer and a smart person, then that probably means that you’re not engaged on the level of the story, that you’re showing off. And most of us probably lapse into showing off periods. Once you realize you’ve got a few chops, it’s tempting to only do that. But it’s difficult to write good fiction when you’re just trying to show people how smart you are.