Having the courage to do it…..
The philosophy behind Releasing the Writer Within, a home-grown writing program that I created, is to get in touch with both the painful and joyful feelings and moments of our lives and use these as tools to create realistic fiction and creative nonfiction (and I argue any kind of writing from business cover letters to short stories). Emotional truth is not about facts but about how we feel in key moments of our lives. Everything from big stressful moments, like your parents’ divorce, to tiny small beautiful moments, like the your child’s first step. The idea is to go back to the moment, re-live what you felt and write about that. Writing about how you felt and how you feel in a moment are ways of getting comfortable with yourself as a writer and communicator. The events of these powerful moments are important too…but when we tell these stories through the first-person narrative (as memoir pieces and autobiographies) the reader must remember that the story being told is from that one person and therefore the “facts” are through one filter and not all who were there.
That’s why, to me, a book like A Million Little Pieces, with its exaggerations and half-truths in terms of facts, is an example of a genre of writing I call and “raw writing”–emotional truth as opposed to factual truth. For marketing purposes and not misleading audiences, I like to qualify my own piece and encourage other authors to do the same. However, I am very particular, when I publish something on my blog, that I edit it with special care to only state things as facts if I know for sure. So my “raw writing” includes truths, facts, and emotional truths. But the point of my “raw writing” is to connect with the reader on an emotional level, focusing on emotional truths.
Notice I said connect with the reader on an emotional level¬– that means the writer needs to get comfortable with his or her emotions and not necessarily understand or change or fix them. That is not the goal. The goal is to accept our feelings and emotions and then use them in our work to create authenticity and humanness–that is what will connect with the reader. It is with these observations and acceptance of our own inner truths that we can then write great fiction and nonfiction. Much like a method actor tries to slip inside the skin of their character’s lives, I encourage my students to slip inside their characters lives by getting in touch with something in their own life that they can connect to the character with.
I have written quite a few blogs recently that lay out the emotional truths about a situation from the last year. The situation and the emotional truths I discovered while writing about it have led me down a path of exploring a part of my life I haven’t fully accepted–until recently. That part of my life is my parents’ divorce and all the baggage that it totes along with it. Baggage like what to do at each holiday or birthday. How to explain all the fragmentation to my daughter, etc. Why haven’t I published them? Because I am afraid of hurting my parents and sister. However, I know that in order to be the best writer and teacher, I have to tell my emotional truths. I have to practice what I preach and I honestly don’t feel that what I am doing is wrong or bad. I think it’s healthy for us all to share these truths. I think it is wrong to slander and lie. I am not doing that. You will see when my next blog is published next week.