It's Flashback Friday - a time of the month where you can republish an old post of yours that maybe didn't get enough attention, or that you're really proud of, or you think is still relevant etc. This blog-go-round is hosted by MICHAEL G D'AGOSTINO FROM A LIFE EXAMINED--THAT'S WHERE YOU'LL FIND THE REST OF THE PARTICIPANTS OR TO JOIN UP YOURSELF.
The post I've chosen for this month first appeared on Tossing It Out on Friday, April 29, 2011. To see the original comments to that post you can click on the title below to be taken to the original post. My reason for choosing this particular post, besides it being as relevant now as then, is that it is related to my next Battle of the Bands post which will appear on next Friday July 1st. ..
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 as well as my memoir blog Wrote By Rote 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.
Do you think that at its deepest level all of your writing is essentially about you? How easy is it for you to write without injecting your personal opinions or do you think it is possible not to do so? Would you rather read something that shared your opinions about issues or something that is very much in opposition to what you believe?