Just like you are what you eat, you write what you live. While I believe that write what you know is a narrow way to approach the vast expanse of stories you could be telling, I do believe that our own experiences create a prism through which we see the world and write about it.
We can’t — and shouldn’t! — spend every hour of our days writing. But the hours we don’t spend writing still show up on the page.
Our examined lives shape our stories
In my writing group, I recently dismantled the seven page outline I had written for my pilot — and rewrote it from scratch, with another character as the protagonist. This is in part because of the badass ladies of my writing group had helped me get to the point where I realized this was the best move, and in part because of what’s been going on in my own life lately. My hero went from the reclusive male protagonist to the live-wire of a woman whose life was a mess but is grappling with her priorities and how she approaches the world. I realized that my male hero was safe to write from: he was a reluctant hero, someone thrown into the story. However, the female character — as vulnerable and messy as she is — is the one who is actually moving the plot forward and putting everything on the line.
After going through a breakup, I realized that I was running from my feelings and the messiness of them — I had also been running from the messy character who was clearly my way into the story all along. So, I got vulnerable, and asked myself why I had relegated her to supporting cast for so long, and realized her story was the most dramatic, even if it was harder to tell.
I say “examined lives” because an unexamined life (aside from not being worth living, according to Socrates) doesn’t provide these kinds of revelations. As artists, we have to question everything. That’s when epiphanies happen: as things click into place after we’ve been moving the pieces around and trying to make sense of it all. [Read more…]