Writing One’s Truth

November 14, 2013, 12:29 am

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” ― Red Smith

This quote (and variations of it) has been attributed to many authors (Red Smith, Mark Twain, Hemmingway). The point of it is to say that writing one’s truth is draining. I often wonder why it is so hard to make myself sit down and write. After all, it is the thing I claim to love. And here I’ll quote another famous quip attributed to various writers: “I don’t love to write; I love having written.” Again, this is because writing is hard. It requires us to be truthful and honest with ourselves. This is necessary, no matter what kind of writing you’re doing.

Some professionals will tell you to “write what you know,” and others will tell you, “write whatever you want.” Either way, with writing, you are inventing space, you’re transporting people, you are putting them under your spell. Whether you know your subject matter or not, I believe that you are always writing “what you know” because at the heart of every good story, are the motivations of the characters. Thus, we return to “one’s truth.” Writers are always going to refer to what they know, what they remember, based on experiences they’ve had. So whether you’re writing a literary novel or a fantasy fiction story, you will return to “what you know,” thus, your truth. For example, if your main character has done something wrong and therefore she is dealing with a boatload of guilt and shame, you’re going to dig from your own well of experience, what it feels like to be shameful. Whether your character takes on your exact feelings is up to you. What matters is the baseline which is drawn from your own experience.

Ultimately, if you’re writing for yourself, your truth will shine through, and thus attract readers. So go at it from that angle: write for yourself, rather than trying to pinpoint your audience and write for them. If you try to guess what’s in demand, what’s popular, you will lose your authenticity, and your writing will come across as false. Write for yourself and you’ll find your audience

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