I’m Writing What I Know For Once

Posted: February 11, 2013 in Living and Life, Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

Last semester, I wrote how I continue to write about subjects I have no personal experience with, despite my creative writing class’s textbook’s insistence that I do so. It wasn’t that I thought anything from my own life wasn’t good enough for writing about, it’s just that I was more interested in writing about a demon causing a human to become a cannibal or a war between humans and werewolves than I was writing about my anxiety before a test or my sometimes stormy relationships with my sisters. When people like my dad would tell me to at least give it a shot, I would usually reply, “That’s too scary for literature.”

But lately–and I blame the workshops I’ve been taking for this–my writing has taken a more personal tone. Over break, I wrote “Enigma” (later renamed to “In The Lady Ogre’s Den”), which has an autistic child as the main character. I’ve worked with kids with autism before, and I’m even on the spectrum, though I’m very high-functioning. Later I wrote “Old Sid” for class (I’ll be turning that one in a week from Wednesday) and that story takes place on the Ohio State campus, where’ I’ve either been working, learning, or both for the past two years. And recently I’ve been working on a short story called “Three Life Saving Phone Calls”, which is based on some dark experiences in my life that for a time made me very depressed and even contemplated suicide. Sure, I’ve changed so much around that it’s now only very loosely based on my life, but if someone were to look closely, and if that someone knew a lot about me, they could see through the fictional veneer and spot what I’ve taken from my own life and put into the story.

Why the change? Like I said before, I think it might have something to do with the workshops I’ve been taking. The emphasis on literary fiction as opposed to genre fiction requires me to be more personal than I have been, and a lot of what those workshops have been teaching me I’ve assimilated into my writing. I guess finding ways to make my own life and experiences interesting is part of what I’ve taken away from these classes. I’m not exactly sure if it’s the best thing for my writing–after all, I’m still devoted to genre fiction, and I prefer to use imagination rather than confront an actual serial killer–but while I’m stuck with this new appreciation for things in my life and using them in my writing, I might as well take advantage of it to the fullest.

And besides, who knows? “Three Life Saving Phone Calls” seems to be just literary enough that I could submit it to a major literary journal, one that pays its contributors. That’s the hope, at least.

What about you? Do you use your own life in your writing, or is your work so strange that your life couldn’t find a place in your work?

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