A Writer Writes About Writing

Being Writer in Residence, opens a new window at the Edmonton Public Library has reawakened my passion for speaking with writers. About writing. Every one-on-one session I have been through has been a revealing and inspiring conversation.

For many of the writers requesting meetings, the motivation behind the stories they are creating is so pure, so personal, that by immersing myself in their words, I am, in fact, meeting them on an extremely personal level.

My favourite writing is never limited by genre or style—the quality that forces me to pay attention and the writing that gives me goosebumps, is the writing that reveals the writer and the writer’s life.

Somehow, being invited into another human’s imagination feels like such an intimate invitation that I feel privileged to be allowed to read it.

I am constantly reminded of my meeting with University of Alberta Writer in Residence and award-winning playwright Colleen Murphy, opens a new window a couple of years ago. Her office walls were covered in quotes: writers writing about writing. Every quote was inspiring and unique and, almost without exception, each one contradicted the one I read before it.

Seeing how writers interpret or reimagine actual events, watching how they juggle truth and imagination, teaches me that there are no rules in writing, except one: WRITE.

Being the Writer in Residence at EPL

I’ve already met with 38 writers and artists, hosted three events, presented my own new play at the Script Salon, composed two sound designs, conducted three interviews, been interviewed three times and recorded a podcast.

I’ve met with a dozen writers at the earliest stages of their creative curve, as well as published authors who shared their work or plans with me. I’ve encouraged new writers to abandon whatever perceptions they had about how to construct a story and urged them to be adventurous, instinctive and to continue to dig deep.

Most importantly, I’ve been constantly reminded to heed my own advice.

It feels indulgent to relax in my luxurious open-concept surroundings at the Highlands Branch, sit in the awesome and retro-stylish Barbarella-style chairs and talk.

We discuss process and form. We discuss how to expose our work to an audience. We talk about the thrill and the frustration of what we do. The only universal theme to emerge is that we are driven to write. Whether there’s an audience in mind to view the work, whether we are working in isolation and torment, the sweet torture that is writing calls us all.

Set aside grammar and spellcheck, structure and form; the most important quality in writing seems to be the intense self-reflection that writing requires. Even when not creating stories about one’s own life, the process demands a critical eye; the ability to view events from a distance, and interpret meaning and find significance in events that could be completely random.

This is the writer’s eye—wandering and piercing at the same time, searching for meaning by casting the gaze far back in time, forward into the future, deep inside or out into space where new worlds are imagined.

Darrin Hagen is working out of the Highlands Branch, opens a new window for 2018. His office hours are Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. You can drop by or make an appointment by calling 780-499-0680 or emailing darrin.hagen@epl.ca, opens a new window.

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