I read an interesting post this morning by Cristian Mihai, who writes a blog full of good writing-related advice and the occasional quandary. Today he wrote about writers working to separate their work from their true selves, and why that might not always be the best plan.
This is something that resonates with me. I have always wanted to “be a writer”… that was the one thing I’ve ever been sure of. But I hesitated to ever write any of the things that mattered most to me for fear that I would be implicated in my own words, or worse — that I would drag in someone else from my life who didn’t necessarily want to be written about. I’ve come to realize that it is a risk that any writer must accept — that we may expose ourselves, or someone we love, through our work. I cannot write about a life and people that I don’t know. I can only imagine so much. I can only research so much. And I don’t think I’m alone. I would guess that even the most well-researched historical fiction must carry some part of the writer in it. A character, a trait, an experience, maybe. And if not, does the work feel “real”?
I’ve given up trying to keep myself separate. Instead, I’ve begun to embrace characters who have some of my quirks and those who seem to share common histories with me. I think I’ll do a better job writing about these kindred spirits than I would writing about someone who I purposely forced away from me.
That’s not to say that we, as writers, shouldn’t try to write a variety of people — a whole book full of Delanceys wouldn’t be terribly interesting.
What about you? Do you purposefully try to divorce yourself from your characters? Or do you find elements of your own life, loved ones and situations seeping into your stories?