Assumptions, Truths, and Creative Fiction: Writing is to Dare
Updated: Sep 10
Contrary to the common belief of some #therapists, writing can be nervewracking. I was so excited when I finished my first #shortstory a few years ago that I wanted everyone to read it. With this in mind, I sent it to my closest girlfriends, friendships that have lasted over 30 years. What I didn’t expect was the feeling of paranoia that set in immediately after I pushed send on the emails. The fear that had crept up on me was that they would take the thinly veiled story as completely truth. Some of it was based on “truth” as they could tell from knowing me and my life so well, so it was just a hop, skip and a jump to believe the rest was also “truth.” This sudden realization, which was also confirmed by a few follow up emails, didn’t sit well with me for many reasons. One reason was that it didn’t just involve me in the story, but others close to me. Another reason was that the assumptions seemed to take away from what was a very creative process. Finally, the realization brought to my attention how complicated the writing process really is and how little control you have over the reception of your creative works. This also opens up the discussion to the method of reading that depends on the biography of the author, a favorite among my students.
I haven’t shared the story with anyone else since nor have I attempted to write another short story. I felt exposed and boxed into a #narrative that I had written myself. The age-old accusation had hit home again. When tragedy strikes, “you did it to yourself!”. Since then I have turned to blog writing, but even then, I can’t resist the return to personal narrative. Inevitably, I revise and make the piece more generic however keeping all the original details.
How does one reconcile this dilemma of #assumptions of #truth when sharing creative writing? How do the best writers manage this dilemma? Ralph Ellison wrote in Advice to Writers, “Good fiction is made of what is real, and reality is difficult to come by.” In this instance, my dilemma seems reshuffled almost suggesting that there is not much truth or reality on which to base creative fiction, but when there is, it is the best kind of creative fiction. Is my worry over the truth somewhat wasted? After all, who is to say I have some grasp on my reality any more so than my friends (or others) have a grasp on it. Having said this, ownership of our narratives is so important in this day and age. Why shouldn’t I have ownership of mine?
Another writer, Jeff Goins writes regarding truth in fiction,
The fact is fiction is often closer to the truth than what surrounds us on a daily basis. Every day, we lie to ourselves to avoid facing the discomfort of our anxiety, hurt, and betrayal (just to name a few feelings). But the art of storytelling can bring those feelings front and center, forcing us to face them and deal with the truth. In other words, stories help us live again.
I agree with Goins, and it is perhaps a matter of revealing the “truth” he mentions that gave me so much cause for concern. I know now that creative writers must be at ease with sharing their vulnerability and be able to take ownership of it. Clearly, this is a task all writers must seek to practice. Another thing to consider with the reception of writing and my friends’ interpretations is that maybe it is not my secrets that are revealed but theirs.
I plan to revisit my story one day as a reader and a writer, and when I go forth to write new stories, and I will, it will be with a renewed sense of daring and adventure.