Writing and Truth

Those of us who are writers have probably all had trouble getting words down at one point or another.  I can tell you from personal experience I go through a small bout of writer’s block at least once a week.  I’ve learned that it’s quite normal for this to happen.  I try not to let it frustrate me, but as writing is one of the main things that I do in order to keep myself healthy and balanced these days, I can’t help a bit of scowling, nail biting and frustrated pacing at my own sort of mental constipation.


But I have been asking myself a lot of questions lately about the patterns I notice in my own writing.  What truths am I revealing about myself through my craft?


If writers take the time to explore the subjects about which they write, on the surface, they’re probably going to note that they enjoy specific things.  Horror writers enjoy the thrill of the scare, suspense writers love to indulge their brains in the mystery that can be the human condition.  Romance, erotica, fantasy, science fiction..the list goes on and on.


But I have a habit of picking things apart in my brain.  The fact that I graduated with a BA in Psychology and then worked in mental health for over 5 years probably just adds fuel to that fire.  I’ve had people tell me before that I over think things.  That’s an understatement.  When I allow myself too, I will crucify myself over something that I said or did that may or may not have offended someone I care about. I will rake myself over the coals over certain choices I’ve made and certain others that I did not make.  Nobody is perfect, but I could do myself and the world around me a favor if I could try to remember that more often.


In terms of writing, my personal investigations began when a friend of mine asked me one day if I was afraid that my truth would come out in my writing.  I thought about it for a moment, and then my initial response was a simple “yes.”


I’d like to think that I have no fucking ego when it comes to anything I do, but I can’t even enter a writing contest without hoping that I will be, hands down, the winner and supreme champion.  Even if my friends are entering the same contest, I want to be the one who shines.  A good friend of mine reminded me of this tonight.


If  I’m walking down the street, as much as I have been avoiding it lately, I usually feel pretty fucking okay when people admire me.  I don’t always want to acknowledge this part of myself, but people in general want to feel, in some way, that others will find a reason to gravitate to them.  There’s no sense in my denying this part of my nature.  I like to think that I attract people.  I don’t know that I would want to be a writer if I didn’t think I could woo people with my words.


This doesn’t mean that I want to be the proverbial dancer at a Chip and Dales, shaking it for anyone who wants to give me money.  Maybe I just don’t want to look like this guy.



And yet, the blogging, the writing that I show my friends, the writing contests I enter, the careful way in which I choose what to wear when I walk to down the streets of NYC all point to a fundamental need for me.  Even when I’m in a bad mood, I seem to crave positive attention.


I don’t believe I truly have an ego.  That may be because I am the type of person that is never sure, before I put myself out there, that I’m going to be well received.  I never know if beer bottles are going to be tossed at my head when I get on that fucking stage and shake my ass.  I like to think I read people well, but when it comes to what other’s think of me, I second guess myself so much I might as well be two different people.


Maybe I can create a doppelganger of myself that has all the self confidence in the world, that always knows what his friends and loved ones are thinking,  that always knows what to say to his special someone to help her feel less alone, AND who can land any job in the country with a wink and a smile.


Yeah.  He can smile if he wants to.  His name will be “Angle” anyway.  That’s always chuckle worthy.


But that’s truth in terms of how I live my life of late.  How does this same truth come out in my writing?


Take my attempt at a story that I’ve been plugging away at.  It’s about a Chinese Hero who is helping two people escape a monster.  Ok, that doesn’t seem so unusual as a plot device.  It also doesn’t seem too uncommon that my hero is a handsome warrior bad-ass who makes others look pretty fucking stupid as he kicks the shit out of them.   He might as well have the sword that says “bad motherfucker” on the blade in Chinese.  I love to kick ass with this guy.  Anyone who likes action and adventure will probably find something to enjoy in this book one day.


But this character has many internal struggles that make him unique. He’s not always up for the challenge of being “the greatest swordsman in all of China” like he has sort of become (according to my writing).  He’s curious about what it’s like to have a wife and a child because he’s never had that before.  He’s secretly jealous of his warrior cousin because he just got started with a family of his own. My hero doesn’t understand his devotion to the little girl in his own life, and he really struggles with the pain of knowing that as good a fighter as he is, he may not be able to help his friends in the ultimate task to kill that monster…


This hero IS me in more ways than I even knew, right down to my bloody perfectionism and the jealousy I sometimes feel regarding my military cousin who has a beautiful wife and two adorable little boys.  I don’t always know how to help my friends, though I always seem to want to be there for them.  I don’t quite understand families, and I won’t even pretend to understand love and romance. . .


Now, here’s the point.  I don’t actively want my personal truths to come out as I write.  I didn’t want readers to start to pick apart my book characters in an attempt to psychoanalyze me.  And perhaps the readers who explore the psyche in one way or another might bother to do that, but most  probably won’t.  For this I am glad.  My ultimate goal is to spin a yarn that will elicit feelings from an audience.  I want to show my readers the journeys that my characters take in their lives.  The emotional ups and downs that come with that journey are supposed to enrich readers.


If a dose or two of my own personal truth comes out as I write, it just takes me back to a lesson that I’m sure all writers have learned somewhere along the way:


In the end, we write best about what we know.


Of course, aspects of books can be researched.  A large part of the time I’ve spent on this book so far has been in the researching of armor, of weapons, of fighting tactics, of cultural understandings in ancient China.  Some of the best horror writers I know, like Edward Lorn,  J. Marie Ravenshaw, and Adriana Noir constantly research for their books.  They seek to give their twisted narratives the weight of truth.  It makes their horror scarier and that much more fun to read.  If you want to know more about some of the inner truths that may come out in their fabulous writing, the bold names are links that you should follow.  You won’t regret it.


And perhaps that’s the lesson I’ve learned from exploring the truths I subconsciously (or otherwise) put into my own pieces.   They’re in there because that’s what I know.  They make up some of the more fascinating aspects of my character development.  Mara Mcbain wrote something about her version of character development that will definitely entertain anyone who follows the link behind that bold name.


The bottom line is, much like my characters, my inner truths mean something to me.  The best writers may, in fact, all share bits of themselves with their readers.  That “universal aspect” that gives a book that spark it needs to capture an audience comes from the experiences, life lessons, and hard truths that the writer has learned.


I’ve learned much in my short life on this earth.  I hope to learn much more.  And I hope to share what I’ve learned with anyone who wants to read about it.


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