The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Looking Back (#FlashBack)





         
      
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 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 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?




40 comments:

  1. Still not writing a memoir.
    Sure, even with fiction there is an essence of who we are in the words. The way I see the world, my morals and beliefs, will surface and often guide the words.

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  2. My first blog was all about me because it was a way for me to heal through something I'd gone through. Now, I still heal as I write but I also try to help others heal too. Plus, I rediscovered a passion for writing along the way that I've been able to fine tune. It's been a fun journey. So, yes, I please my inner critic first (sometimes) than throw it out into the world and see what happens.

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    1. Elsie, if you aren't pleasing yourself with your writing then I would ask that person why they even bother.

      Lee

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  3. I don't think I'll ever come around to writing my life story, but you are right. All of my fiction is about me in some way. These are great quotes and I like how you break them down.

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    1. Toinette, I think that everything we say or do in some way reflects who we are and what we believe. How could it not since our words and actions are all part of our lives?

      Lee

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  4. Everything in this post is so true! Even those writing fiction include parts of themselves in their work. It may be inadvertent, but it's there. I write about my experiences all the time and try to make it entertaining.

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    1. Debbie D, I would imagine a good psychologist could determine a lot about a person through a few samples of their writing.

      Lee

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  5. I can't see one couldn't put one's beliefs or views into one's writing. I think, even when we don't mean to, we still do it otherwise it may even come across as fake because you have to believe in what you are writing about even if it is about a murder or sci-fi. I love these quotes!

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    1. Birgit, I think it's difficult to fake what comes from our minds though we can possibly disguise it if we're good enough at pulling that off. Still, the writing is in the writing somewhere.

      Lee

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  6. I write mainly about my life and family experiences.....have always done so.
    I enjoyed reading this again Lee, I must have read it first time around but that was five years ago and many posts have been written since then.
    Enjoy your week-end and take care.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Yvonne, yes, you commented the first time around. Writing about family is something to which we can all relate in some way even if our family situation is totally different. The human experience touches all of us.

      Lee

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  7. Often enough the essential me comes out in my writings, however slight or insignificant. I feel as though this a specific way of me saying (or shouting) "Notice me. I am around."

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    1. Pop Tart, excellent observation. I've always maintained that we write to be noticed, otherwise we'd just think it all and keep it to ourselves. I think this is even true for something like a private diary or anything we intend only for our eyes.

      Lee

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  8. I think I have a lot of myself in my writing. It may be hopes and dreams, or things I wish I was brave enough to do, but I'm there somehow. Even if there are vampires. LOL

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    1. Patricia, yes even the vampires and most outlandish fantasies are a statement about who we are. The heart of the question sometimes is what exactly are we saying about ourselves?

      Lee

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  9. Hi, Lee!

    These are all excellent observations about the writing process. Who and what you are, your belief system, always shows up in your writing, and that's as it should be. When I write I write to please myself. If it pleases other people or only a single other person, it is icing on the cake.

    Thanks for putting food for thought on the table, good buddy Lee, and have a great weekend!

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    1. Shady, if I'm not pleasing myself in doing something and I'm not getting paid or receiving some kind of benefit, then why bother doing it?

      Lee

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  10. Appreciate the quotes and how they are so applicable. I definitely draw from my life experiences and observations in my writing.

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    1. Susan K., life experiences and observations are what we have to draw from other than research and that I guess can be counted into those categories.

      Lee

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  11. Pat Conroy said all you needed was one crazy person in your family and you could be a writer. My writing is about me, unless it's about a situation I've imagined for myself or someone I know. Even when I write about someone else's experiences, I have to be able to relate to them.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. Janie, we all have unique people in our families and circles of friends who influence and inspire us. If we can't relate to experiences we write about then how can we expect readers to relate?

      Lee

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  12. Okay, so you raise a point about fiction being merely fictionalised versions of something true. Hoe does that relate to a movie like Star Wars? What about Back to the Future?

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    1. Michael, I think the preceding conversation in the comments adequately answers your questions. I might add that as writers we write what we know as the adage goes, but we also write what we imagine.

      Lee

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  13. Thanks Lee, glad to come across this post from 5 years ago. I love the quotes. I agree you are what you write. Even in fiction. The writer who writes about murder and mayhem has to plummet those depths in order to be convincing to their readers. Who doesn't enjoy a who dunnit?

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    1. Susan S, we don't have to actually have done things we write about (especially in the case of terrible crimes God forbid), but we can certainly envision them. Maybe they could be considered metaphorical interpretations of actual experiences in our lives or just stories inspired by true events that we read or hear about.

      Lee

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  14. I think that it would be impossible NOT to include a part of ourself when writing...

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    1. OE, I completely agree! We are what we write and we write what we are.

      Lee

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  15. I like to read books with a viewpoint different from my own, as long as that POV is not preachy. There's a fine line between presenting a reasonable argument and the author trying to ram his opinions down my throat, even in fiction. The first makes me think. The second makes me reject the book and go read something else.

    In my own writing, I don't find myself or my life experiences popping up too much yet. I'm thinking about taking a workshop at the library on memoir this summer though. I want to be prepared if I ever get the urge to tell all. :D

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    1. Patricia, I think it may depend on the subject matter and pov--if it's something we agree with then we probably don't even notice if something is coming across as "preachy", but instead nod our heads in agreement. But you're right about the way a message is delivered. Subtle reason works best in the long run I think. Though writers like Ayn Rand built a reputation on strong messaging.

      You don't have to write a memoir to present your life experiences. I've read some excellent novels that were fictionalized accounts of the author's own life.

      Lee

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  16. Without a doubt, some part of me is in every single thing I write. But then, I am not a journalist nor a reporter. Nor am I writing fiction, but if I did, it would be fiction about the things and life I know, so I'd be all through that as well. I write first and foremost for myself. If others find enjoyment or are touched, impacted or encouraged then it is all gain.
    Barbara from Life & Faith in Caneyhead

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    1. Barbara, I find that often, especially these days, journalism becomes infused with personality which has traditionally been considered a no-no. Fiction I think would be difficult to write without some personality showing through, but I believe that's called the writer's voice or style.

      Lee

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  17. Thanks, Arlee! This post has strengthened my conviction that writing our story is good for ourselves as well as others. I've found that looking back from a new insight and place in time gives you a new and healing perspective. Your choice of quotes reinforced my intentions to keep on writing. :)
    https://meinthemiddlewrites.com/2016/06/24/me-in-the-middle-of-looking-back-flashback/

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    1. MLQ, I think many would say writing is a form of therapy for them. That's how I see my writing to some degree.

      Lee

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  18. I like writing as one character for an extended period of time. It allows me to accentuate one part of myself, or figure out how a different type of person would think and speak.

    But after I write as a character long enough to be good at it, I discover that the character and I have completely meshed. I mean, she's doing what I want her to, but she's just me, if that makes any sense.

    Then it's time to shake things up and write as another character.

    In other words, no matter how much I try to hide in a character, my voice and personality and experience ends up coming through soon enough.

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    1. Nasreen, this makes complete sense to me. I don't see how a writer can write a character without stepping inside to see how that character ticks, what they would say, and what their actions would be. Sounds to me like you're writing the way it needs to be done.

      Lee

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  19. Great post! Yes, we have to be a bit vulnerable to be an engaging writer, I think. We have to write in a relatable way and that is often done when sharing tragedies or other things we'd rather not talk about. In the fear is where we find the gems...
    Great quotes here and great advice!

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Michele, humanity must be at the core of all writing and our own is what we know best.

      Lee

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  20. I like the way you wrote this - alternating quotes with your own thoughts. Very thought provoking. I think my favorite quote is the one by Goethe. I think there's always something of ourselves in our writing which is what makes our own words unique. Great post!

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    1. Ellen, the Goethe quote captures the gist of what I'm saying here. Thanks for you complimentary words.

      Lee

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Lee