The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Your Yesterdays

"Refuse to write your life and you have no life."Patricia Hampl

        Your past is the wellspring that supplies all interpretation of who you are and what you know.  A writer who attempts to shake his past becomes a mere amalgamation of the thoughts of others.  In the end that writer who tries to reject his past is merely a poseur who has betrayed his own true essence and is little more than a puppet master of word manipulation.

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

           Good or bad, everything that has happened to us in our lifetime shapes our world view.  We are who we have been and what we have known in our lives.  In natural writing this will come across organically and without shame.  No matter how much we try to force our words our true self is hiding somewhere within.  

"Everybody needs his memories. They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door."--   Saul Bellow

             Sometimes I hear people saying that they don't want to talk about themselves, they just want to write.  But why do we read a particular writer?  Sure it's the story and the writer's skill, but isn't it also the style?  The style comes from the writer's unique voice and the uniqueness of the writer's voice comes from who that writer is.  That writer persona has been formed and molded from the memories and experiences of the author.  If you want to be known as a writer, then you must speak in your own unique voice.

"Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days." --   Flannery O'Connor

         We sometimes hear the protest, "But my life isn't interesting--I've never done anything and nothing has ever happened in my life that's special!"  Therein lies your mission.  You've witnessed plenty in your lifetime. You've got plenty of data stored in your memory banks.  Now it's up to you to put it together into something interesting.  Like the letters of the alphabet can be formed into an infinite number of words, what you know can be put together in countless ways and told over and over.  No one has seen life from your unique perspective.

"The man who writes about himself and his own time is the only man who writes about all people and about all time." 

George Bernard Shaw

Still the stubborn cry may be raised, "I can't keep writing about myself--my readers will get bored."  But perhaps you're confusing the uniqueness of your personal story and the shared experience of the human story.  We still read the great authors of the past because they tell a story that still applies to us in our age.  The settings, the nuances of language, the customs may have changed but the emotions and needs are much the same now as they ever were.  If we can successfully write our own story into the story of humanity then we have accomplished one of the main goals of being a writer.

"Everything one invents is true..." -- Gustave Flaubert

        In one final attempt at argument you might say, "But I want to write fiction. I don't want to write a memoir or about anything that is true."

        It's still about you. Even if what you write is the most extreme fantasy, science fiction, or any other form, you are still part of the story. The story you tell is an extension of who you are and what you know and what you believe. If it's not these things, then what is it? Fiction? There is no real fiction, only fictionalized accounts of that which is true. If this is not the case then the story is not to be believed and the author is a liar.

"In a very real sense, the writer writes in order to teach himself, to understand himself, to satisfy himself."
-- Alfred Kazin

         Often on Tossing It Out I have written blog posts based on my life and my experiences.  I don't worry too much whether the readers want to hear about what I think or what I've done in the past.  My main concern is whether it has been written engagingly enough for readers to want to read it and to be entertained in the process.  There are times when I might want to attempt to teach a lesson or even persuade a side of some opinion.  Like any writer, my goal is to please my audience, but since I am the first member of my audience who reads what I have written, my primary goal is to please myself with my work.  If you are not pleased with your writing then you need to write until you are pleased.  Always be honest with yourself.

          Lola has become my 1000th follower!  Does anyone know who Lola is and does Lola have a blog?  I'd like to link to her blog to recognize this milestone achievement for Tossing It Out.  I wish everyone who decided to follow my blog would drop in the comments after they've clicked the follow button to let me know so I can reciprocate the follow.  But on the other hand, I'm thankful for everyone who does follow. My thanks to each of you!


          The A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post is coming next Monday May 2nd.  Hope you will join us with your thoughts about the Challenge.  Click on the link to read the details.  The Linky list will be available this weekend.   Make sure that you add the precise link for your Reflections Post.


           Do you write about yourself?   Have you used past life experiences in your writing?  Do you agree or disagree with today's post?



  1. Great quotes, Lee. I think your past always finds its way into the writing somehow.

    Moody Writing

  2. Absolutely!

    And I absolutely agree!

    Life on The Farm

  3. You may not be writing ABOUT yourself but what you write can't avoid being coloured by WHO you are.

  4. All true. I hink it's the authenticity behind the writing that hooks people. nd whether it's set in the year 1250 or 2150, we as humans all experience the same range of emotions.

    Re: followers, I added a message to my home page pleading with people to leave a link to their blog when they comment or on their profile. I don't autofollow but I do want to read what they have to say and be given the chance to follow them. Its a little frustrating when I can't find a link anywhere!

  5. only one post left and it's over where did the time go

  6. Makes sense to me. I use past experiences (usually not personal, just stuff I've seen) but not a lot of my own personality.

  7. Funny you should write this today. I just started another blog that will have memories of my life. These will be more actually memories as opposed to stories, but maybe something will trigger and I can write something great from them.

  8. I like Flannery O'Connor's post. Both my protagonist and antagonist have a lot of me in them. The antagonist surprised me when it dawned on me how much of me is in him (sans the murdering people). Kinda scary epiphony.

  9. You should write what you know. If you don't write from your own experience, then your writing is artificial or second-hand. I base characters on people I know, and I am always my protagonist. How could you not be in your writing? It would be unreadably dry.

  10. I don't write about myself deliberately, but you're right: it creeps in, no matter what!

    I'm over here 'coz my blog has gone missing

  11. some great quotes on there, and how very true

  12. Very well said Lee. Without a past I don't think I would have an imagination. Congrats on 1000. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  13. I wrote about a large part of my life in my memoir and continue to do so on my blog. I don't think we can separate ourselves from what happens to us. We need to have some objectivity about events, though, in order to write about them in a healthy way.

  14. I write quite a lot about myself or just things that are going on in my life, sometimes I wish that I haven't because I don't want to be the main focus of the post. Yet it is a lot easier to write about yourself then anything else and I enjoy it too at times.

  15. My poems are based on my life, family and friends,

    Congrats on your 1000th here's to the next.Well deserved.


  16. Thanks for all of the comments. I won't respond to each of them since I would get repetitious doing so, but let me address some of the more specific comments.

    Li -- Thanks for addressing the blind follower issue again. It's been said before but a continual reminder doesn't hurt. I like to know something about my followers.

    Alex -- You probably don't recognize your personality in your writing but I'm pretty sure it's there maybe not so much in story itself, but in style, presentation, and moral platform--it's all part of you and your personality.

    Busy91-- Your memories are your stories and you should try to tell them as such. The memories shouldn't be a dry recounting of events, but a readable story that interests and entertains at some level.

    Stephen Tremp - When I was reading Breakthrough I was seeing Chase as the fantasy alter ego of you. That's the way it came across to me having been a reader of your blog.

    Roxie -- You get what I'm saying.

    Karen Walker -- I think you're right about writing with objectivity. We want to tell as much truth we can safely tell, but we don't want to sound obsessively bitter, regretful, or any other feeling that would seem forced to the reader. Too much of that and I think a reader can feel uncomfortable and might decide to move on.

    Samuel -- Plenty of people write about the same things that we can read about in other places, but you are the only one who can write accurately about seeing your world through your eyes. Your mission in doing this is to attempt to make what you write interesting to the readers.


  17. Part of the reason that I started blogging is to leave memories for my children. So I often write of personal experiences. I seem to get more comments on them than other writing. And it challenges my memory!

  18. Great quotes. I don't write about myself, but I sometimes use things that I've experienced. Sometimes these are straight up. Other times, they're mixed and mingled with other events so they make something new.

  19. everything in this blog is a yes yes yes - good post

    will the link of a-z's be staying up for a while so we can catch up on those we haven't seen yet - I rekon I'm only up to about 6 or 700 would lkie a chance to get around

  20. I could not agree more. When I first started on this path to improve my writing, I tried to find "my voice", but then I realized (kinda like Dorothy) it had been with me all along. Thanks for having this awesome blogfest. It has been a wonderful experience.

  21. Memories remind us of where we've been.

    Can't believe A to Z is coming to a close!!!!

    I look forward to the reflection posts.

  22. This is why people keep on telling writers to write what they know. Because they are an authority on the subject based on what they've been through.

  23. I tend to write about the happy times in childhood. Especially in poetry. I find it is very therapeutic to remember the good times. After all we always have the bad times. They are like stains that won't come out.

  24. Awesome post for writers, Lee!
    If I can, I'd like to add -

    For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
    Ephesians 2:10 NIV

    God made us who we are and each of us is special and has a unique story to tell.

    My friend and mentor, Pam, from Encouragement for Christian Writers included this quote in her post 'Why We Write'. I think it applies here too.

  25. I often start out writing from a personal aspect but then the voices within take control and put their spin on things & the end result is not quite what was initially intended:-) Stop in & read Y is for Yosemity Sam

  26. I can really identify with Alfred Kazin's quote. Blessings to you today!

  27. I like some of the quotes you listed in this post. Yes, I write about myself when it is relevant to the subject that I am writing about. Yes, I have used past life experiences in my writing or maybe, I guess it depends on what you mean by that question. I try not to make a habit of writing about my past experiences just for the sake of writing about it.

    I do however, write about past experiences if these experiences were the motivation or inspiration for the subject that I am writing about. I also write about part experiences if they can be used as an example for a point that I am trying to make.

    I agree with today's post. If we are not pleased with our writing, then why write in the first place?
    I do not always follow this motto with my freelancing work because sometimes I have to write about things that I'm not interested in but right now, I don't feel like I have a lot of other options because that is what pays a lot of the bills. This is why I like blogging....I can write about what pleases me :)

    I don't know who Lola is but congratulations on your 1000th follower. Yay for you!!!!

    Yes, I am one of your followers and followed you early on this month, but I'm sure you already know that because it was way before things got pretty hectic in this challenge, with so many blogs and posts and readers and comments that are probably keeping you very busy :)

    The Madlab Post

  28. Thank you for these additional comments they are all appreciated.

    Rae-- My daughters sometimes will read my posts and will wonder later why I'd never told them about that story. I also feel like this blog is good for them and to help me remember.

    Carol -- I'd argue that your writing reflects who you are and you are telling more about yourself than you may realize.

    Alberta -- Yes the links should be available on the pages of all of the hosts for several months.

    Jeffrey -- I think the write what you know adage is often misinterpreted and doesn't mean what you know from only your experience, but that and all that you have learned in life and have a reasonable understanding of.

    Marjorie -- Is it possible to reinterpret the bad times and use them to understand our own growth and see good that has come from those times?

    Brianna -- Yes, I think there are many quotes from the Bible that could likewise be used to illustrate my points.

    Nicole -- I think even in freelancing work or hack work we should approve of what we've done and like it to a certain extent just for the achievement alone. A writer's mission should be to create a readable product that conveys whatever it was they were intending to get across. It doesn't always have to be great, but it should do the job.


  29. My post for "Y" is up.

    Thanks for looking.
    Laura T.

  30. What a beautiful post, I really enjoyed it.

    Thank you again for hosting this Challenge, it's been a blast!!

  31. Very appropriate quotes. I especially liked the 1 by Flannery O'Connor.

  32. I frequently write about myself--usually not a complete piece, but I include tidbits that show readers where I get my perspective. In doing this, my hope is that I'm able to form a bond of shared experiences/attitudes, making my work spark something in those who read.

    I've always said that being a writer takes a special kind of bravery because as you pointed out, we bare a bit of ourselves every time we put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Writing ain't for wimps. ;O)

  33. I don't think we can write without putting a little of ourselves into it. I've tried to avoid writing reflections of me, but I think we all have so many layers that it's inescapable. There will always be a portion of me in my work (different portions, but portions nonetheless)

  34. Yo, ho, haul together,
    hoist the colors high.
    Heave ho, thieves and beggars,
    never shall we die.

    Oh, I was so free, to transfer the A-Z Challenge in some Sailor's Yarn: Y for Yarn

    Have fun! Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!


  35. very insightful post.

    one shall never discard one's past.
    Bless you.

  36. If I could not share a part of myself through blogging there would be no point. Then again if I could not share a part of myself through writing then the point is gone. Thank you for helping me open doors that I was unsure I should open. My journey has only just begun.

  37. I believe that we are connected across time and space with everyone who has ever suffered or rejoiced...and that writing about our unique experience and our "take" on it serves as affirmation to others. We are all so alike in many way. Thanks for the post.

  38. Thank you!!! This is one of the most encouraging and inspiring posts I have read in a long time. I do write about myself and have doubts at times but love the qyotes and encouragement to just keep it interesting.

  39. And thanks to each of you who has left a comment here.

    Lisa from Nadir -- I've been read a biography of Flannery O'Connor of late and that's what inspired this piece today. When I was Googling for her quote to make sure I had it right I ran into these other great quotes.

    Siv -- If an author's unique voice doesn't matter, then why put their names on their works?


  40. I do write my novels including bits of my past, refashioned - sometimes used as scafolding until the story itself gets its walls up! I also like to write and read memoir...

  41. This was a very wonderful and very true post. Thanks , Lee--I never thought about it that way as I meandered through my past.


  42. Great post; we have to get over some hurdles and realize what shaped us does affect our view and makes our writing unique~

  43. I totally agree.. I think that no matter what we write we bring ourselves to would be difficult to not do so...I know you've probably gotten these before, and I don't know if you're accepting them anymore..but I've given you the Versatile Blogger Award...just wanted to show appreciation for helping me along the way!

  44. Congrats Lee, as I'm reading this you've surpassed 1005 followers! Loved all of your quotes! I often write about myself, and when I do write about others, I usually mix some of my own 'schtick' with it!
    I'll see you at the Reflections Post! Julie

  45. Definitely! I agree with you on this post. Interesting reflection and quotes.

    Congrats on your 1000 plus followers!



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