Monday, May 25, 2009

Writers and Writing

I have been reading a biography of John Cheever (Cheever: A Life, by Blake Bailey, 2009) and as a writer, I find it fascinating to learn about the lives of my favorite writers. I'll be posting a few more thoughts on this book but I'd like to start with one struggle I've been having as a writer.

I have really been "down on myself" for not coming up with original material; not so much writing what others have written, but taking my own life experiences and history and using that as a foundation for a story. But in reading this book, I have found that John Cheever did the same thing. Many of the characters in his stories were based loosely on people from his own life, including himself -- his mother, father, brother, wife, and friends all appear in his works.

So that is very encouraging to me as a writer. It lets me know that not only is it okay to draw on my own experiences, but that it can lead to some really good and meaningful stories.

I'd also like to comment on the fact that he, and other writers, seem to lead troubled lives. Why is this so? Is it because we read more about their lives than other, "normal" writers (and I use that term loosely) and they just stick with us more? And it's just not writers -- it's artists (VanGogh) and composers (Tchaikovsky) as well. Maybe it's just that they have more to write about, more emotional issues to connect with, or maybe the percentage of artists with issues is the same as the general population, but they are just more open and more expressive about them.

In my own writing group, we have a good mix and bag of emotional issues and struggles and it comes through in our writing - abusive parents, struggling to find one's true identity, and disastrous relationships.

I don't know the answer to this. Do you?

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