Writing As Self-DiscoveryA Lesson by Neverbird19
Why is discovering yourself the most necessary step to becoming a good writer? How do you go about with this self-discovery?
When I first bought my little black writing notebook, I expected to chock it full of possible story ideas, descriptions of passersby that I would later translate into character sketches, snippets of prose or poetry that presented themselves to me in the middle of a lecture or at lunch. And yes, to a certain extent, that is what my little black book contains. But it also is full of something else, something just as crucial to writing as all the above, indeed - moreso: self-discovery.
Sometimes, overcome with an emotion, I will be overcome with the urge to get it down on paper. Not the description of the emotion so much as the experience of it, what happened, why I'm feeling the way I'm feeling, what I'm considering doing about it, reactions of those around me. A great portion of my writing notebook looks more like a personal journal or diary. Not only are these valuable for analyzing further on down the story-writing road when you want a character in a crisis to have a believeable reaction, but they also provide a very clear and precise view into your own soul.
Why is knowing yourself so important to writing, especially if you aren't planning on writing about yourself?
The answer is simple: If you are planning on being so presumtuous as to proclaim yourself a god and create a world, complete with characters who walk and talk and hopefully breathe in your audience's minds, then you are going to have to have an intricate knowledge of how life works. And there is only one primary source in your research files, my dear literary friend - your own essence. You are your own window into the workings of the world, something you are going to have to utilize if you ever want to be able to create anything believeable on the page. In you, untapped, dwells every emotion imaginable, every thought, feeling, experience, dream that your characters will have. It is your job to make sure that you are aware of these tiny precious bits and pieces of yourself, so that you are able to take them and weave them into your words to make your story or your poem ring true.
For many of us writers, the reason we write is because we best express ourselves on paper. This is not only true when we are attempting to communicate with others. Sometimes we discover the most important things about ourselves while we are writing self-reflexive journal entries, describing unearthed memories, and being blatantly truthful about things that we would rather keep in the dark.
Personal Experience: For me, the moment of painful truth came when, in response to a writing exercise, I wrote in my notebook that I would not be overly upset if my entire family were to be brutally murdered. I would mourn, of course, but I wouldn't let it ruin my life. I was scared at how easily I felt it would be to move on, how unnecessary I felt that vengeance would be. I would not be one of those tortured heroes searching the far ends of the earth to find my family's killer. I did not feel the need to be. This is not to say I do not love my family - it was more a reflection on my own moral character, and it was not something pretty to see. This in turn forced me to consider the question: could I, then, honestly write about a character who was motivated to reek revenge on someone who had done him or her wrong?
Knowing what we ourselves feel comfortable with helps us immensely when choosing plots, characters, and themes about which to write - if you have never before experienced true love, then it is a possibility that writing a romance novel might not be the best course of action for you. Oh, you will be able to write the words, and possibly create some of the most passionate dialogue ever to emerge from the lips of literary lovers, but the honest emotion will not be there, and your audience will sense it. They will say "This book was well-written," and then move on to the next, possibly less-well-written book and love it more than they could ever love yours, because the author tells the truth.
Am I toting the age-old addage "Write what you know?" No, I am not.
That phrase, while helpful if you're a middle-schooler attempting to write a medical thriller, has a lot wrong with it. Writing is supposed to be an exercise, a stretching process that results in understanding and renewed vision, not just for readers but for the authors themselves as well. We cannot be expected to obtain these things if we only rehash what is already familiar. We must push our limits and explore new boundaries, because that is what writing is all about.
I think the phrase should be ammended to "Write what you discover". In other words, you might not know what you know, and so you will stay inside your little box unaware of the realms without. Probe the borders of your mind, unleash all those thoughts that you might shy away from, that hide in the shadowy corners of your brain, afraid to be seen in the light for what they really are - mysterious, dark, possibly even ugly. But these are all good things to be in a writer's world, because once you discover them, you can utilize them, turning them into brilliant story elements that will be vivid and heartwrenching because they come from you. You created them. They are truth.
Exercise: Every writer does character sketches, asking characters hard questions about their past or their present, trying to create dynamic, well rounded people from their subconsciousnesses. Sometimes this can be a difficult process - and well it should be, considering how infrequently we actually ask ourselves the same questions. If you don't know how you would answer them, how can you expect to answer them for a fictional character?
Start a writing journal and vow you will never let anyone see what is inside it. Make it a place where you can vent, where you can be the person you really are without anyone seeing you and thinking worse of you. Ask yourself probing questions and answer them honestly in writing, and swear to tell nothing but the truth.
A List Of Possible Questions To Ask Yourself
- Are you happy with your past?
- Whom do you hold a grudge against and why?
- If you were to kill one person for personal reasons, who would it be?
- Whom do you love?
- If your life flashed before your eyes, which scenes would play and why?
- What are your hopes for the future?
- Do you think you deserve to be where you are right now? Do you deserve less? More?
- What is one crucial decision that you made that, if made differently, would have changed your present?
- Name your biggest regret
- Name your biggest fear
- Name your biggest hope
- If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?
Note: These might not seem directly related to writing, but believe me, you can get some pretty amazing story ideas from these questions and the way you answer them. Try answering them truthfully for yourself, and then have one of your characters answer them as well. REMEMBER: Be truthful at all times. The more it hurts, the better! It's going to be painful. It's going to stretch you. But it's also going to make you stronger. That's why they call these "writing exercises".
Added on December 9, 2012
Last Updated on December 9, 2012
AboutI'm a college sophomore majoring in Journalism because I love writing but I also like eating. I carry a little black notebook around with me everywhere, and it's crammed full of story ideas and though..