To write something you have to risk making a fool of yourself.
Throughout my writing journey I have heard or read words along the lines of ‘a little bit of you goes into everything you write‘. Apparently, the best writing, whether it be fiction, non-fiction or poetry, comes from an element of personal experience.
I believe this rings true.
This doesn’t mean everything you read is autobiographical. If that was the case, then I fear deeply for our world given the high number of prolific authors of deeply disturbing murder or paranormal genre.
The idea for every story, or every factual piece, however, must surely have as its seed an element of truth; at the least something meaningful to the author.
The days where I had to dissect books and analyse the author’s message or intent in order to achieve an ‘A’ grade are long gone. However, at times of boredom, or procrastination, it can be entertaining to wonder which aspect of a particular tale contains the formative seed and therefore the key to the author’s life experience and deep secrets.
A few examples I find simultaneously amusing and disturbing are:
- Shades of Grey (E.L. James) – I don’t think I need further explanation here.
- Most books by Andy Griffiths – if you have ever heard Andy speak it will take little brain power to dissect this one. Basically, he’s never grown up. Clearly this is the key to his success (and I wish I’d thought of it first).
- James Patterson (anything written by him, except one weird book which had something to do with angels and it veered so far from his usual style and my image of him that I am convinced he didn’t actually write it) – the fact that this man has found, and continues to find, so many different ways to kill and maim is scary.
So, I believe there is a little bit of us in everything we write, because we write what we know. The trick is to creatively weave an entirely fictional story around this information.
Not that I’ve had anything published in hard copy or which has earned me anything (but, dammit, I will …), however, if I think about pieces I have written, or am writing, each one has started with a piece of me:
- Sultanas for Little Lunch (two rejection slips and some particularly demoralising, but fair, feedback from CBCA … however, I am a long way from needed a spike to hold my rejection slips to the wall as Stephen King did). This children’s story was inspired by the fact I found a box of sultanas in my lunchbox every day for years. I hate sultanas. This story is my baby – but I really need to rework it.
- Gran’s Clock (some ok feedback from a competition which I didn’t win). This short story, again for children, was inspired by my Nanna, to whom I remain very close, and contains lots of little ideas which are true.
- The Somnambulist (started as a short story, is being reworked as a novel – thanks Tracey – and has also been rewritten in a different time frame for a competition and anthology submission, neither of which were successful). The setting is the location of a primary school campground I went to several times (and hated). The theme is sleepwalking (which I did) and the main character’s fear of the river is pivotal (I hate rivers, bad experience when I was about 8).
- Ambush in the Forest (I actually won 2nd prize for this … and it got published in an online anthology … no $$ though, and a ‘print it yourself’ certificate). Another children’s short story which came about from a childhood memory of my fingers becoming stuck in my grandfather’s arm hair.
- Write About Quotes (self-published blog … thank you for reading it). Clearly, this is all about me.
Have I risked making a fool of myself through my writing?
Potentially – yes … particularly as I’ve now revealed the pieces of my life that were my inspiration. And that is to say nothing of this blog. Every post I have written contains several pieces of me. I have started with a quote that appeals for whatever reason, intended to write something different and, at the end, have realised that my words have taken my musings down a different path.
Possibly, superficially, I aspire to be like Erma Bombeck or, more recently, Jenna Price (who writes excellent pieces for The Canberra Times) but deep down writing is cathartic. If it paints me as a fool I will just have to suck that up … it may well be the path to success.