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The importance of quarrelling with ourselves

We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry. 

William Butler Yeats

Yeats, whose birthday it was a few days ago, on the 13th of June, understood the difference between ranting, rhetoric and preaching on the one hand and poetry (which I will take broadly to mean all forms of fiction, indeed, all forms of artistic expression) on the other.

As someone who writes issues based novels, both for adults and young adults, I face the danger of using the art of fiction to pick a bone with someone, to make a point, to hope that a particular message will come across.  But such intentions are the enemy of good fiction, which, I believe, must be a slave only to the truthful expression of story and the authentic revelation of character.

True fiction comes from a deep place, a place of quarreling with ourselves.

For our words to sing on the page, to ring true, an internal wrangle must have taken place. My best scenes come when I challenge my preconceptions, my prejudices and my short-sightedness.  When I train myself, over and over, to look at the world anew.