Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Writing what you love

And now back to your regularly scheduled blogging:


I love Maastricht. I love the cosmopolitan density: it's a very small city, yet it feels like something much bigger. I love the smells of good food that float out of the shops, I love ogling the dresses in the shops, and I love watching the people--I don't mean that in a creepy, "I'm stalking you" way. The people of Maastricht are just more at ease with themselves, and it's infectious to the point where, if you spend any amount of time here (long enough to get to know the place, but before the bureaucracy annoys the living f*ck out of you), you'll just be happy.

By the same token, I hate Amsterdam. It began as an indifference, but now I actively dislike the city, mostly because of the tackiness of the red light district, and the tourist-y areas that are so over-the-top tourist-y that you can't help but feel like you're walking through a rather sinister version of Disneyworld. All that's needed, really, is for a couple of people dressed up as giant rats to pop out with swords and rob you. Actually, they already do....

But my feelings about these cities really make themselves loud and clear in terms of the quality of the tours that I've written for them. My Maastricht tour is carefully crafted, striking that delicate balance between informative and informal, with a bit of snarky humor. My Amsterdam tour is also informal, but I couldn't bring myself to research to the level that I managed for Maastricht. I feel rushed when I read back over the Amsterdam tour, a feeling that I get when I think about Amsterdam. I certainly feel that the quality of the writing is different--not in terms of the quality of the information, but the feeling that a reader should get--and I marvel that my feelings for the two cities should be so transparent in writing that should have no room for such things.

Writers, I think, engage in a most intimate exchange, more so than any other form of expression, save music. Stephen King calls writing a form of "telepathy"--and in writing one literally dictates the emotions the reader has. Done well, and the reader will bawl when you weep and laugh when you smile. Done poorly, and you get dismissed as a hack. Your readers will know your thoughts and feelings--and it doesn't matter how you try to hide them. When you're putting it all out there, there's no way to hold anything back.

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