Writing: Your Life and Your Work

When doing it on purpose I have an extraordinarily hard time writing about my life. I find that the more I concentrate on memories of events, the more they elude me, alter, or take on new significance. And it’s also sort of a personal preference, honestly. Writing about my own life makes me uncomfortable. But I recently realized that this doesn’t mean a gosh darn thing to my writing.

While working on my Prince Charming project, I slowly began to realize how much of my life has ended up in this book. Not that it’s anything close to autobiographical (thankfully–Tabitha’s life gets awfully complicated), but I’ve noticed characters that are similar to people I’ve known at one point or another. Situations I’ve encountered and sayings I’ve heard are popping up too. Maybe it’s because I’ve set the story in my hometown, maybe it’s just past time something from my personal history made it into my work. Or maybe whether you want it to or not, whether you do it on purpose or not, your past will worm its way out of your mind and onto the page. What you experience in your years on the earth shapes the way you look at the world and the way you look at the world shapes the way you write about it. It’s automatic, subliminal, and impossible to avoid, but do you really want to?

That strand of reality that unconsciously runs through a novel or story, that iota of emotional truth that screams, “Yes. Someone has lived this. Someone else knows what this feels like”… That truth, that relatability, runs through all those books that really touched you. The ones that you remember for years and you recommend to everyone you meet. How do you manage it, though? Do you decide to tell your story and create a novel as an allegory for your life? Basically, what I’m trying to figure out is which is better: purposefully using what you know or letting what you know have its purpose by using you? I don’t know for sure. Do you?

Edited to add this quote I just found:

Every author in some way portrays himself in his works, even if it be against his will.
– Goethe

It seemed so relevant, I couldn’t not post it.

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