A call for writing advice led me to seriously consider the best “shortcut” I know to become a better writer. It’s not a book. It’s not “butt in chair” or “writers write.”
And it’s not a shortcut.
But if you’re just starting out as any kind of storyteller, cultivating this skill will shave years of effort from your writing practice… and maybe even make you a better human being in the process.
Listen to find out the how and the why… then come on back here and leave a comment to tell me what you think!
Links and Topics Mentioned in This Episode
Here are some of the things I talk about in this episode. Many of these links are to products and services with which I have an affiliate relationship. I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you purchase those products and services through my links.
- The beginning of this episode suffered from a lot of background noise that I think I scrubbed out of the audio you hear. The cause? Turns out my window was open. Urk.
- This episode kicks off with my monthly transparency report detailing my revenue and social reach in the month of May, 2018.
- Listen to episode two of Sonitotum with Matthew Wayne Selznick, “State of the Start.”
- My social media hubs on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
- The books I mention as focusing on writing theory over craft:
- Aristotle’s Poetics
- The Art Of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri
- Story by Robert McKee
- The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
- Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
- “I am large, I contain multitudes” comes from Walt Whitman’s classic poem Song of Myself.
- “Get To Know Your Worst Self,” my Scribtotum article featuring an exercise to write better antagonists.
- I have not-kind things to say about Pacific Rim... but you can still learn about storytelling from the movie!
- Brené Brown explains the difference between empathy and sympathy in a talk from The RSA that’s been adapted into an adorable cartoon.
- “The unexamined life is not worth living” was purportedly spoken by Socrates at his trial, as described by Plato in The Apology of Socrates.
- Sam Raimi created a fun, silly, Hercules TV series starring Kevin Sorbo… and it was light as air, and each episode blew out of one’s awareness just as soon as it was over.
- You know who Han Solo is.
- Hazy Days and Cloudy Nights: “How It All Got Started” is my ongoing serial fiction project available exclusively to my patrons. Read the first three installments and then get the rest for as little as $1.00 per month!
What Do You Think?
So what do you think? Is empathy over-rated as an important skill for writers and other storytellers? How do you use empathy when you’re writing? Do you even empathize..? Let’s hear from you in the comments!
Hey Matthew, been listening since you began podcasting again a month or so ago. So far I’ve been listening as I go for a walk with one or more of my dogs, and your recordings provide me with substance not to be found on the radio dial I sometimes succumb to… I’ve found every episode resonates in a variety of ways.
For example, empathy (a topic of this latest episode). Without it, what would a writer write about? Do sociopaths make good writers? I doubt it… A person without empathy may be able to fake her way through an essay, but a story with truly believable characters requires a deep understanding of how a person feels, of what drives his behavior… The writer who fails at empathy may as well resign himself to writing “stories” for the sides of cereal boxes.
Anyway, thanks for taking the time to produce these for those of us out here yearning for substance, for truth, for authenticity. (Speaking of which, don’t be too hard on yourself when you’re feeling challenged by your own self-imposed drive toward authenticity. Try not to burn yourself out “keeping it real”. )
Matthew Wayne Selznick
Aw, Harold, thank you so much for this. Means a lot.
I’m working hard to avoid the ol’ devil burn out — balance and harmony in all the things, ideally! Knowing that folks are appreciating some of the ways I’m trying to serve… that certainly helps. A comment like yours adds a whole big ton of soul coal to the engine. Thanks again, sir.