I started writing when I was six years old.
Back then I was convinced I was going to be a writer. I’d spend my evenings carefully ruling out sheets of A4 paper so I could write up my stories and take them in to show the teacher the next morning. I recently caught up with my teacher who got me interested in writing. She remembers me bringing in pages of stories for her. I loved turning my ideas into words and then handing them to someone for a read. Since then, only my handwriting has improved and my audience has increased, slightly.
I rarely put much of my real life into my writing, but I’ve used my family and friends multiple times when writing poems. They often provide the basis strongest poetry. My mother likes to say that she can tell the difference between the poems about my real life and the ones that are not. She has the advantage of being related to me though, so she might not have the most objective view on the matter.
This raises the question I wanted to look at in this post:
‘How much truth do writers actually put into their work?’
As a poet, I can put a lot of myself into a poem. Similarly, I can put a lot of someone else into a poem. I can just as easily take an imaginary someone and create a poem around them and I can write a poem about myself. Perhaps my ability comes from writing characters in prose. However, writing about me is the hardest task when trying to put pen to paper.
Writing personal poetry can be akin to tearing a chunk out of your soul. You’re putting yourself on display. Often it can just be as simple to create someone entirely new and let them tell their story instead. For example with Daydream Girl, a poem I wrote:
They called her Daydream Girl.
Eyes, tucked away in the letters of books, spine crackled and binding frayed. She was music, tripping up over loose pavement stone in the hopes of digging out stories long ago buried in the sands of time.
Her hands were skeleton keys pushed into every lock on sunken chests pulled up from abandoned rib-cages. Took care not to hurt the crustaceans as she pulled them away mail-link by mail-link until only the under armour remained.
She poured laughter down my throat and burnt out my lungs with song. Left me bellowing misty dragons into the night. Ran my hands across the tempo of her chest and told me to dance with the beat.
They will not tell me where to find her again.
These words are brittle,
there is nothing of you here
and I am tired.
When I wrote this I was only thinking writing something for the prompt that was fun to read and had some cool metaphors in. I was having fun playing around with language and thinking about this person that I had made up to play the role of speaker. It wasn’t about me, though some of me may leaked in, it was about a character that was bubbling around in the back of my brain. This ability to experiment with different characters is perhaps my favourite part of writing.
Take for instance Neil Gaiman. He writes for adults as well as children. He writes novels, short stories, fairy tales and comics. He talks openly about how he never wanted to be a writer who wrote ‘that’ sort of book. He once said that readers know what sorts of books are his books because they have his name on the front and in my opinion that is what all writing should be. The choice to hop genre, or to write both personal and fictional poetry, or to throw out children and adult stories is all you. Writing should be unlimited and writers should be unbridled in seeking out new ways to express the words that they want to say.
Writing is about imagination. Nothing more, nothing less.
The post is written by Carol J Forrester. She mailed me this a long time ago and I got around to posting it now. Carol is a poetry and prose writer and her blog Writing and Works is a wonderful collection of her writings. Lastly, her novel Darkened Daughter is in the works!