Writing: Keys to the Self

Whatever kind of writing we do – fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, poems – it all comes from somewhere inside the self, and bears the hallmarks of our individuality.

The writing process is one of the ways we can open up to the themes and dreams of our inner worlds which, if we can’t find a way of opening to them, to use Ted Hughes’ analogy, lie dormant and inaccessible to us, ‘like the fish in the pond of a man who cannot fish.’

In the first instance, what creativity requires is surrender – the willingness to explore inside your mind and allow whatever is there to emerge. But to shape our stories and poems into something other people will enjoy reading requires a different skill – direction and focus. Two parts then, both needing to be well developed: surrender and control.

Last year, one of my work resolutions was to let go of the desire to be helpful in my writing, which has been a main driver in all my work, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m not sure why it suddenly felt like a good idea to try and distance myself from it, but the upshot was that I barely wrote anything at all.

I was talking to a friend about this, and she remarked that maybe we didn’t really have a choice about what kind of writer we can be; the writer we are is the person we are. When she said that, it was obvious.

It made me think of the early years of mothering, when I gave myself a hard time because I couldn’t be the kind of mother I wanted to be. It took a long time for me to understand that to be a different kind of mother I would have to be a different kind of person, and that wasn’t something I could achieve, however hard I might try.

When I stopped trying to be a different kind of writer and thought about this year’s goals, I straight away found four exciting book ideas. Well, exciting to me. And each one is strongly driven by that old desire, to share ideas that can make life better.

Evidently the process of becoming a writer is like the process of writing itself, a combination of surrender and control. First, be open to finding out the kind of writer you are, and then develop the skills to make the best of your raw material.

Has writing given you insights into the kind of person you are? 


4 thoughts on “Writing: Keys to the Self”

  1. Yes, it has. I’ve written a slew of stories (mostly on my blog), but they reveal that my mind is not static. It’s fluid and colorful. I get bored easily. Most of my stories have similar elements: mysterious characters, supernatural or gothic overtones, delving into the minds of others to try to learn how they function and why they do certain things. It all substantiates my distrust of people and a desire to keep them at a respectable distance.

    Yet, these tales have by a variety of individuals whose personas I’ve culled from my interactions with people throughout my life. I’ve jokingly told some friends and acquaintances they might see themselves in a particular character. I just change the names to protect…myself. It’s odd, though; as much I am NOT a people person, I still find human nature curiously appealing. It’s something of a love/hate dichotomy. After all, my stories aren’t populated solely by animals or robots!

    1. Yes, I think creative work, like dreams, are where the balancing ‘other’ side of the self, the shadow, as Jung called it, can find expression. It’s as much positive as negative, not just inner darkness – it can be our unrecognised light.

  2. Yes it has…. Im always concerned with womens’ lives, their roles, what it means to be young, what it means to have absent parents and prayers unanswered and having to pick up dreams that don’t come true or manifest in different ways. I don’t actively change names to protect, rather I start with a character,first line or whatever, and suddenly our experience merge but are never identical.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s