Friday, June 30, 2006

dangerous writing

I am loosely affiliated with a group of prose stylists who call themselves the "dangerous writers." Local critics have been known to malign us, using the title in mock fashion, and gracing it with a derisive, hyphenated adjective such as so-called, or self-styled. True, calling yourself a "dangerous writer" opens the door to doubt, and invites a sort of challenge-laced taunt: If you're so dangerous, let's see what you got!

Again and again, during Q and A at any given "dangerous reading" there is that question posed: What the hell is a dangerous writer, anyway?

Here's my answer:

Dangerous writing is not about product, the same way loving is not about having. To write into danger means to stay where shame, embarrassment, fear, self-loathing, sorrow and lust reside. Stay there until a new question forms, and once that question forms, ride out the discomfort and follow that depth of inquiry without flinching--wherever it leads.

Dangerous writing exposes you to you.

Dangerous writing has a love/hate thing going with language, because writerly writers hide behind words all the time. Language can compel while it distances--and that's a different sort of danger. That's bad danger. Language can be the stunning gown you throw on instead of stepping out naked. Language, when used dangerously, is a whisper, not a cacophony.

Writing dangerously is writing scenically, not expositorily. It goes beyond show-don't-tell into know when and where to move the camera when you show. Dangerous writing, when successful, will leave the reader with more than one emotion. Often, contradictory emotions. It's simple language that delivers complex feeling. And yet it's not sloppy, imprecise or general.

Dangerous writing is writing that we've never seen exactly that way.

Dangerous writing starts with an assertion that you have no fucking idea what you want to say, but you know you have to say it. You begin absolutely alone, and from there, in traipses all of humanity and its dirty shoes. Sometimes. And other times writing dangerously simply means writing. Instead of going to the movies or watching tv or thumbing through People.


  1. Anonymous5:14 PM

    Hey what a great site keep up the work its excellent.

  2. i met laura today. she caught me reading Writing Memoir by Judith Barrington. In my hand was also my writers quotes book, with quotes from a Dangereous Writers workshop I popped in on at Wordstock last year. They've been on my radar ever since but I've never taken a course.

    Now I read this, what you've written to describe the danger of exposing one's self on the page.

    And it made me cry.

    This is the kind of writer I long to become: vulnerable, transparent, intimate.

    Thanks Suzy for your insight here. I'll bookmark your blog. I love a good blog. Tell Laura Hi from me, the woman from Arby's.

  3. Laura told me about the auspicious meeting! Tom is wonderful, isn't he? Thanks for chiming in. Keep your heart open and keep writing. Really, it's transformative.



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