Every once in awhile I like to think not about what I write, but why I write. It might seem silly to keep doing this as a repeat exercise, but I have often surprised myself with how my answer to this question changes every single time.
I used to believe that I would want to just write fiction. I had been writing fictional stories ever since I was a little kid, around the age of 7 or so. In those days there were just silly stories ranging from the overly melodramatic to the downright silly, because all I was interested in was indulging myself and my crazy childish imagination. I eventually progressed to taking it more (or less, depending on your perspective) seriously, and thought that maybe I would just write short stories and film scripts, always fictional.
I wanted to write to escape from what I felt was a mundane, hum-drum life. I didn’t quite believe that anything interesting would ever really happen to me, and so I wanted things to happen to my characters. I wanted them to have flourishing love affairs (that ended either badly or well, but always with perfect, story-shaped closure), adventures big and small, tragic accidents or tragicomic escapades. If I couldn’t live an exciting, happening life, they would do it for me – in three-act structure.
Or perhaps they would be awkward, silly characters, reflections of myself (or aspects of myself) that I didn’t want to address directly. Through these slightly off-kilter representations of me, I would get the happily-ever-afters (or almost-happily-ever-afters) and sweet romantic moments that I craved.
Over the past year, I’ve noticed changes – in the way I write, the things I write, even the reason I write. Since getting involved with TOC, with my job, and with more social campaigns (eg. We Believe In Second Chances), I’ve moved away from writing fiction towards writing more non-fiction; reports and reflections on what I’ve seen, the people I’ve met and the stories I’ve heard.
And I got hooked.
It was like my world expanded tenfold overnight. Suddenly I was telling stories from different parts of the world, of different people having different experiences. I was going out of my shell and looking around, and it was getting reflected in my writing, which was exciting. Suddenly I wasn’t writing about things buried inside me anymore, but about the great, big, crazy world outside of my self.
And the strangest part of it all is that once I started looking outside myself and my own comfort zone/experience, I started feeling happier with who I am inside. All the awkwardness and neurosis and uncertainty that I had been trying to deal with – and had been reflected in my half-baked fiction writing – became easier to work through, because I don’t worry so much any more that I am boring, or insignificant, or just a silly little girl who spends her life pretending. (Plus it’s just fulfilling to know that the stories I am telling now might somehow help people out there in the world.)
It really is interesting to think about how I’ve changed and grown, and how the ways I have changed and grown has been reflected in my writing. Going from writing about the lives I hope to live to writing about the life I am living has been a journey that I wouldn’t trade for the world, and a journey that I hope to continue for a long time more.
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