A Quote About Writing, By Richard Hugo

“You owe reality nothing and the truth about your feelings everything.” -Richard Hugo, The Triggering Town

I found this quote in one of my readings for my poetry class, and thought it pertinent to my writing.

People have told me before about how I capture emotions and things really well (something I’m not agreeing with or disagreeing with here, just stating- I’m not trying to be haughty or anything). And I think at least the partial reason for that rings true in this quote.

“You owe reality nothing and the truth about your feelings everything.”

Not everyone’s experienced hard emotions to the degree we read and write about them. I certainly haven’t been through all the crap I put my characters through. I think what counts in getting those emotions across, though, is writing close to or adjacent to the feelings you want. You pick things from your own life, experiences that have impacted you or people you know, and use that to write what you’re putting the characters through.

I feel like these things are so “difficult to write” because you put yourself back in uncomfortable memories to write about hard subject matters. And you use outside resources and knowledge to make up the rest.

Does this take a lot of empathy, to do your research or submerse yourself in other people’s shoes to get closer to what they feel? Maybe. I dunno. I just write.


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