Today’s focus is my fourth writing fear—finding myself in my fiction. This aspect of writing brings good and bad with it, so I’ve come to the decision that it’s all in how you handle it.
Write what you know.
If you’ve spent any time around writers or as a writer, you’ve probably heard about writing voices (see this post on some of my thoughts about them). These are the bringers of wisdom and advice. As I mentioned before, these voices don’t always agree and each must be weighed according to the needs of a writer’s scale before choosing to embrace or overlook them. Some of the more common voices say things like, “Write what you know.”
A while back I decided I should take that advice to heart. So, I started a story about a stay-at-home-mom who couldn’t handle the
torture blessing of being cooped up with screaming kids all day. As you can imagine, the story fell pretty flat (though a different angle or a bit of color could one day resurrect it as something). Plus, it was just way too close to home. I was the caged mama feeling tortured! Seeing some of my thoughts and emotions in print scared the mess out of me, and I wasn’t ready to be quite so transparent at that point in my life.
I freaked a little bit—I seem to do that quite often. I thought if I couldn’t write about what I know, how could I ever write books? I wasn’t a fan of finding myself in my fiction it seemed. Well, there are a few things I’d like to go back and say to 9-years-ago me.
- You know much more than being a mom of a little one.
- You’re trying too hard.
- Take a breath, relax your sleep-deprived mind and try again.
- The willingness to bare your soul will come once you’ve had time to heal its wounds and to comprehend the lessons they leave behind.
Since resurrecting my drive to become a published author, I haven’t written anything about what I know—or have I?
Regardless of the story we write, we somehow lie at the center of it.
Write who you are.
This may not be obvious—even to us as we’re writing—but it’s there. In all three short stories I’ve completed over the past five months, I see pieces of myself. It may be in a characteristic, a mannerism, a deep-seated fear or some experience from my past. The literary fiction novel I’m currently writing has a male main character. I’m not a guy—obviously—but I’m all over this story. Some of my secondary characters came in my mind from images of people I’ve known throughout my life. The initial setting comes from a real place. Characteristics, fears, tendencies, feelings—all from me—dot the pages of this manuscript already.
And, I’m okay with it!
I’ve learned things about myself through writing fiction. When I wrote my Mardi Gras short story, “Walking the Parade Route,” I had a moment where I stopped typing and said, “Hmmm … so that’s why I feel this way!” At first glance, this story doesn’t seem to have anything about me within it. My main character is a single woman. Guys, I haven’t been single in a very, very long time! But, Laura inherited more from me than the hazard of being a writer. She’s a good judge of character. She’s pretty quick to see beneath any masks and knows the difference between sincerity and a ruse. I’d like to say she gets these things from me. [Sidenote: Want to read this story? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter and get it free today!]
This time when I realized I was writing pieces of myself on the pages, I didn’t freak out; instead, I celebrated and recognized that I’m growing as a person and a writer.
Now my writing focus is much more clear, and I’m okay with finding myself in my fiction. I may not always like what I find, but I’ll be learning and growing as I go—whether I’m writing about a stay-at-home mom who’s buried in laundry or a Marine who can’t shake the looping reel of his wartime nightmares.
What about you? Readers, have you every found yourself within the pages of a book you’ve read? I have! Does it scare you? Excite you? Grow you? Reading fiction often offers the best glimpses within for me. Writers, have you ever stepped away from a story when it got too real? Did you return to it later? What did you learn from that experience?