A (Short) Tale of Two Writers

There are two kinds of writers.  They’re described quite succinctly by the following quote.  For those of you who are writers (and for those who enjoy reading others’ work), I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

A word is not the same with one writer as with another.  One tears it from his guts.  The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.  ~Charles Peguy

The moment I read the quote, I knew which kind of writer I tend to be… and several other writers came to mind for whom words come from a different place.  Neither is better or worse than the other, they’re just different.

I’ll admit, I tend rip most of my words from the gut, or I did before I had to start writing every day.  I see now that there is something to be said about pulling some things out of our pockets now and then — like when we’re on a deadline and have no choice.  Or when something needs to be said and we don’t necessarily want to go through a “gut-ectomy”. Pulling things from the gut just isn’t always practical or timely.  Or necessary.  Yet sometimes it’s important to process a subject, internalize it, really deal with it, before trying to express it coherently.

For better or worse, maybe both of these writers – the one who tears it from his guts and the other, who pulls it out of his overcoat pocket – need to co-exist within the same person.  Maybe experience can teach us how to be both kinds of writers over time.

Internalization could perhaps take one writer’s work to an entirely new level, or the ability to not hold so tightly and just lay out some words that work could offer efficiency and volume to our body of work.

I’d be curious to hear from you. Readers, what do you prefer? “Gut” stuff? Or “pocket” stuff?

Fellow writers, which kind of writer do you tend to be and how is that working for you?  Which kind of writing gleans the most response from your readers?


7 thoughts on “A (Short) Tale of Two Writers

Add yours

  1. I am a from-the-gut writer. Knowing that I am, I consider anything else to be a shortcut for me. It scares me to death sometimes to share the deepest gut words – but I find those are the ones that resonate the most. It’s true even when I go back through my journals…the entries I enjoy re-reading the most are those that took the most risk to write.


  2. Without a doubt I prefer to read the gut wrenching type.

    So it follows I should be a from-the-gut writer. Its true … I SHOULD be. However, I am more than capable of getting words out of my overcoat pocket, and thats less scary, so that’s what I do. It’s not that I can’t write the internalised, heart and soul lines, its just that I very, very rarely (and I mean count on one hand rarely) can bear to let anyone else read it.


  3. When I was younger I was the gut writer. I couldn’t be stopped. I didn’t care how good or bad the story was. It just had to be written.(Looking back they weren’t bad at all). In high school class would be over and I didn’t hear a thing that was said.

    But lately, say the past few years, I’ve been the out-of-the-pocket writer. I find myself bound by the rules of structure and timing, which leads to less writing. I liked it better when I was a gut writer.


  4. The subject is mostly a gut given one, the writing is a mix of gut and pockets. The gut driven stories sometimes tend to resemble a rant…and i hate when that happens.
    So to keep it balanced and light…i reach in my pockets…while i’m writing this response i realize how much of a consious/unconsious proces writing really is.
    The gut drenched stories usually get the most response.



  5. I’m much like Steven. The more I write out of the pocket, the more difficult I find it to write from the gut. It’s as if I have to push my creativity to its limits to get something out.


  6. Out of the pocket is way more fun. I love writing conversations. Gut writing is sometimes therapeutic, but if no discipline is applied it can be ~ embarassing. I have not forgotten my English professor’s remarks to one of my very first essays in Comp I. The topic was, “Is God Dead?” I burned up the paper. His comment when my paper was returned? “You threw up on the paper.” I write like William Faulkner (quantity of words, not quality . . .)I aspire to Haiku.


  7. I find I get the best response (and the writing comes much easier) when I write about something I’m passionate about. I don’t think I would call that “coming from the gut,” because that, for me, sounds like something that’s a struggle to write. When I write passionately, it’s not much of a struggle!
    The more you practice writing, the easier the “out of pocket” stuff gets, I assume. 🙂 Interesting topic.
    Just found your blog through twitter. I like it!


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