Many writing related books state to write what you know, and in my literature classes there was always much discussion on how much truth or life experience an author injected into their respective work. Criticism becomes bound up in decoding what parts of a story have autobiographical elements and which elements are masks for the author.
I’ve found that stories that come close to my own experience, or even touch upon themes that I’ve dealt with are the hardest to write. Right now I am working on a new novel that could best be described as a family saga. I reached the 15,000 word mark yesterday and it has been hard to get even this far. My speculation is that this difficulty is more than figuring out plot, characters and theme. By concentrating on this fictitious family I am forced to think about my own family — the secrets, quirks and dynamics.
I know that parts of me will slip into this new novel, parts of my feelings and experience will inform some of what happens independent of the dramatic arc I am trying to fashion. I can’t help that, it is all part of the process. What is so interesting is how writing a long work can help you see parts of yourself you’ve never noticed before. Writing, in some fashion, is a form of self-discovery.
That sounds very self-aware and pleasant, doesn’t it? The thing is that those parts you discover aren’t always positive. Sometimes you find things that are scary, ugly and contradictory. I have a feeling though that kind of energy is probably the most powerful. Continuing down that vein of writing will have powerful consequences even if wrestling the words out is hard.
I will keep going, but I give myself permission to take breaks along the way.