What Has Your Writing Helped You Discover About Yourself?

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Has becoming a writer caused you to learn anything new about yourself? Something you wouldn’t have known, if you’d never started writing?

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17 thoughts on “What Has Your Writing Helped You Discover About Yourself?

  1. Yes, I’m sure it has, but I’ve preferred writing things down since I learned to form my 1st sentence in grade school. So in a sense, I’ve been doing it for so long that I take that process for granted and don’t tend to recognize the aha moments as such.

    • That habit must have also helped a lot in your schoolwork, BK. I didn’t learn to do that until I became a journalist. Now it seems I can’t get through any conversation without jotting down notes.

  2. Writing used to be a way to express MY thoughts, feelings, confusions, realizations–the inner-directed journaling mindset. Now writing has become more a way to communicate with OTHERS and make connections with them. More external focus on the reader and less internal focus on the writer.

    Writing also made me develop a thick skin. Rejections used to be paralyzing disasters. Now I brush them off and keep moving forward. As Patricia says, perseverance.

  3. Yes Definitely. A lot of my MC’s tend to have really dark backstories, to be very emotionally wrecked. I guess that was my subconscious telling me to examine myself. It’s a little too difficult to put all the soul searching in to words, but basically I became my own therapist without knowing anything about psychology beyond the basics. I know exactly why I do what I do, I know the motivations behind my reactions, and I know what I need to fix them. But, unfortunately, I don’t have the right people yet to fully heal.

    • I have often wondered about that myself, AZAli— my writing group friends will sometimes give me the side eye like “Wow, your thoughts are so dark!” I like the idea that writing gives one license to come up with worst case scenarios without worrying about becoming a neurotic mess, lol.

  4. Me, too. I still remember being so amazed when I wrote 10 pp/week for the critique group I joined, and realizing after nearly a year that I had written an entire novel.

  5. I’ve learned that some stories start out as great ideas–back story, theme, and so forth. But some–many–of those stories are ones I’m not now, may never be, ready to write.

    The not-ready part may be because I don’t have an emotional tie to the story, the main character, the research, any reason. For example, I have flashed an idea to my editor. He thinks it’s a great story idea complete with plot, characters, theme, and so forth and so forth: thinks his gut is telling him that it could well be a national bestseller, the whole band-and-fireworks parade. Well, I don’t think so. Why? I’m not exactly certain why. I am certain not this year or next–perhaps never. For some reason, I’m just not emotionally prepared to put it down on paper. Well, you know what I mean.

    On the the other hand, I have an idea for a more literary novel–a surprise to me because I never, NEVER thought I’d get into the literary side of writing. (You know what I mean.)

    The stories I’ve always wanted to write have involved explosions, shoot-outs, John Wayne leading the troops, American good guys rooting out the bad hombres, getting the best of the cabrones who sneak the white stuff cross the border, not caring whom they kill or harm in the process.
    The story my editor thinks is solid gold, is of that type.

    But then, I had a friend tell me a little story. I began to see and hear the Arizona desert irrigation canal, brown water sparkling in the sun, sounding like a brook, not at all the same thing. The smell of creosote after the violent desert storm, wafting through the small Pima mud-and-board sandwich house, the taste of red chili stew made with rabbit instead of beef because of rationing, the spying on teenagers at the dance in the kabuki theater built by the members of the community for plays. The eight-year-old boy scared of the old man who goes down to fish in the muddy waters of the irrigation stream. Somehow, that all seems lovely and appealing over the thought of a desert shootout. I know I won’t stay in the desert around the canal forever. But for now, oh, yeah.

    Know what I mean?

    • Those smaller, quiet stories are the ones that can stick with us, long after the umpteenth explosion-car Chase-armed standoff “thrill” subsides! Thanks for sharing that, Jim!

  6. Patricia and Debbie B are spot on about how writing teaching perseverance. You keep writing when you think you’ll never finish a scene, keep editing until you want to scream, keep marketing it when you’d rather pull the covers over your head. But, you just keep going. Such determination and perseverance seeps inside you and helps with daily challenges too.

    My stories are about young women who face physical, emotional, and ethical challenges in their lives. They may have to overcome abuse, poverty, abrupt change or heartbreak and decide if they can trust again, love again, stand up to their abusers or give in. Which road will they take and why?

    I wrote a coming-of-age story about a young girl overcoming physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. It was just a story plucked from my imagination until the day I got an email from a lady in her fifties who had read the book 3 times. She explained how when growing up, she’d suffered similar abuse as the main character, Becky, had faced and had never been able to talk about it to anyone, even her husband of 20+ years. The reader wrote, “I’ve never been able to find the right words to describe the horrors I suffered growing up. But through Becky, you put words to my pain, and today I sat down with my husband and told him everything. He’s even reading your book to help him understand about Picks (bullies) and Pickers (their victims).”

    Now, when the blank page seems too intimidating to tackle, I reread her words and am reminded of the power of the written word. Margaret Atwood wrote, “A word after a word after a word is power.” I’m humbled that I have the privilege of being an author.

    • Wow, that reader’s message was an amazing tribute to the strength and trueness of your writing, Deborah! Wonderful story!

  7. Like Patricia, I have ADHD. It was undiagnosed until after my second published book. For a while I tried to manage it with drugs, but my prose came out stiff and awkward. Without medication, it takes me a while to settle down to work, but when I do I can hyper-focus. And I realize that ADHD is also a kind of gift in that it keeps my imagination going.

    • Ah yes, that’s the little discussed flip side of ADD, the tendency to hyper focus to the exclusion of all else once one does set aside the distractions. It runs in my family—we call it “tuning out” (according to those excluded family members who accuse us of not listening to them!) 😄

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