Friday, March 15, 2013

Great vs Outstanding

February was a hell of a month with tons of projects and deadlines, and I'm super proud of myself for having met all of them. I now have four stories submitted to different magazines and anthologies, I'm attending a creative writing class in my local college, and yesterday I finished the translation I'd been working on. What's left of May promises to be just as busy but completely focused on my writing, which makes me even more happy.

Part of what will keep me on my toes is that writing class. At first I wasn't too happy with it, thinking it looked more like a group therapy session than actual writing do's and don'ts. It kinda broke my heart a little. Then we started reading our assignments in class, which in itself is terrifying because I hate my accent when reading, which lead to me being completely unable to finish a sentence without stuttering, even if I knew by heart the lines on the paper. Agh!

Then, there were the other writers. In contrast with every one else, I'm in a whole different league! And I don't mean a better or worse one, just TOTALY DIFFERENT. There are a couple of poets but most of them write more literary and dramatic stuff... and here I am, sharing my bloody horror stories, what even Stephen King calls 'the McDonalds of literature.' Awesome.

Last class, this guy is telling us how he had a very complicated relationship with his dad, inspiring him to write a touching, hilarious, and poignant story on child abuse. Then it's my turn and I 'read' (more like babble) a story about the end of the world. Granted, my story deals with the existence of God and our deep faults as humans, but it's not personal. New assignment for next week, write about something that has happened to you that affected you or made you think. That brings the ball home... I don't really write about myself. Why?

King uses his experiences, takes them to the worst possible conclusion and there you go, next month's bestseller. And he isn't alone, most people use their inner demons as fodder, so why not me?

After giving it a though (and quite a few hours of my sleep), I realized that I have but two stories that come from my sadness, my pain, or my fears. One is currently in submission, I couldn't finish the other because it was too depressing. So I guess there's my answer. I write because I love it, because it makes me feel alive, because I can let my imagination free and turn my back on my problems. I don't want to prod in too deep because it hurts, it makes me sad, and it isn't fun. But most of all, because the ride terrifies me.

When my oldest daughter was two, she almost asphyxiated with a huge chunk of ice she was eating. I had nightmares for days! Now, say I write a story where she actually dies and what would be my life like. Hell no! I don't want to deal with that kind of pain for months in order to get a decent story out there. Not when I can write a decent story that has nothing to do with it. Still, I guess that's what would make a good story exceptional. Raw pain bleeding into the ink...

So I've decided I'm going to meet the challenge. I don't know if this will become a new direction for my writing, but I'll try. First order of business is finishing that truly depressing story. We'll see where it goes from there.

What do you think, is it really that the only way to be outstanding is to write about yourself? Or is it possible to deal with deep, yet less personal problematics and still be a great writer? Food for thought, indeed.


Julie Luek said...

Great article-- sounds like the class is really challenging you. I write mostly nonfiction and essays, so I write about myself frequently. I also am challenging myself to dig a bit deeper and become a bit more transparent in my writing. That does not come naturally for me. I think the trick of any good writer is not so much that we find a deep, personal dramatic detail to share, but that somehow we can make even the most mundane seem extraordinary.

Georgina Morales said...

Indeed Julie, you are soooo right! That is the most challenging thing a writer can do. I kinda feel better now, less inadequate and more challenged. Thanks!

Shelly said...

I think a lot of what we write is psychological. Its our way of dealing with trauma or mean people.

So far, if I were to analyze what I write...and if I were a shrink...I'd have to agree with myself.

Good post.

Hugs and chocolate,

Yolanda Renee said...

I know how you feel Georgina, I find that kind of sharing near impossible. I write fiction because I can be as truthful as I want in the guise of that fiction. For me it is very cathartic, but I still wouldn't go there for a class. I think Julie said it all -- make the mundane seem extraordinary. Good luck!

Nicole said...

I don't think you have to write about yourself for something to be outstanding. But adding more emotion and transparency to characters (whoever they are) is always a good idea!

Georgina Morales said...

Thanks Shelly, I think even an amateur psychologist would have a field trip if allowed into every single word I write... um, no thanks. =)

Yolanda, I guess it is very hard for me to do it at this point, maybe in the future I'll feel better, when I know the gang a bit better. We'll see. Thanks for visiting!

You're right, Nicole, and oh, how we writers try to create deep, meaningful characters... if only it were a wee bit easier...