Writer Vs. Person

I’ve always had a fear of sharing my writing with others.  As I’ve found, this is a fear shared by most creative people when putting forth their works into the world.  You pour your heart and soul into a physical, tangible thing, and suddenly there is nothing left to hide behind.

I’ve talked before about how a part of myself is imprinted in every character, setting, and subject in my writing.  So when I’m in a dark place in my life, my stories will take on a darker theme, and the same can be said when I’m doing well.

But what makes me hesitate sharing my work with close family or friends, is that I don’t want them to read too much of me into my writing.  Which is an utter contradiction to the fact that I admitted to pouring my heart and soul into my writing.   Bear with me!

I want to be able to bring my own experiences and thoughts into my work.  For better or worse it can take quite a dark turn.  And that bitterness is what I will write about.  However, in expressing myself in that way, it will be the only side of me people are seeing.  A mere hand full of puzzle pieces in a 1,000 piece puzzle.

That is definitely not my goal in imparting myself into my writing.  I almost feel like I need a disclaimer before sharing with my friends and family.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, and themes expressed in this writing, are not necessarily a lens in which to view the writer.  Please keep in mind, there is a difference between Aly the writer and Aly the person.

And yet, I sometimes feel that it’s almost an insult to try to separate my personal self from my writer self.  Because in reality, there is nothing to separate. They are one and the same.  I am writer, hear me roar!

I guess it’s just a matter of trying to explain and find common ground with those close to me, who don’t understand the whole ‘writing thing’ that I do.  Out of my family, I am the only creative type.  My brothers and my parents are more logical and realistic.  The majority of my friends are that way as well.  It’s hard for them to understand the nuances of me in my writing, but I won’t hold it against them.

It’s the few friends, and many friendly bloggers I know, that encourage me to continue being my creative self.

Do you guys distinguish between a writer vs personal self?  Do you think it’s bad  to try to separate/downplay a side of you that close friends or family don’t understand?

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About Aly Hughes
Unprofessional, unedited, unpublished. Aly is out to make a name for herself by blogging, twittering, facebooking, and general internet-ing. Be warned: She may not know what she's talking about.

29 Responses to Writer Vs. Person

  1. I don’t try to make the distinction. A few people look for me in specific characters, while others just marvel at the process, and don’t ever worry about where I might be in the work. For the former types, I’ve found nothing I say can get them to understand that I am in every character, every nuance, yet none of it is me. It’s like breaking a mirror, and places the pieces at random. Each will reflect you to a bit.

    What I’ve learned to do is not worry about what they think. It’s enough to focus on making the words say what I want them to say. Trying to be two distinct people is too much addition work I don’t need.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I really like the comparison of a broken mirror, well put.

      Growing up I always adapted to those around me, certain traits coming out/hiding depending on the people I’m around. But I think a lot of it does stem from caring what others think, which is something I know I over analyze. Especially with something as personal as my writing!

  2. Hi, Aly. One the one hand, you can only write about what you know; if you need to write about something with which you are not familiar, you have to do a bit of research. When you work up a character or a set of characters for a story, you work with what you know about people; including yourself. I am one of those who believe that people want to read about people; plots are secondary to the characters in my stories. Important, because the plot is the mechanism through which my characters reveal themselves. But in the end, I write about people. Don’t over-analyze yourself or your motivations. It’s not necessary, and it is rather confusing. You are a person, and you are a writer. And don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what people think about you, or your writing. If your readers enjoy your tales, they’ll buy more. If not, then it’s up to you to write stuff they will want to read. But again, don’t over-analyze this stuff. Just write.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I like to write about people as well, and perhaps it’s because I do over analyze myself. In a way, writing and exploring relationships in my writing has helped with insecurities I have, but there are obviously still some there. You’re right though, I should spend more time just writing. And when it comes down to it, what the readers think of my writing will be more relevant than those who don’t understand my need to write. 🙂 Thank you for the comment!

  3. jdhoward says:

    I have a very similar approach to my writing. I don’t do it intentionally, it just happens. Not only does my main character share some of the qualities and experiences I’ve had, but also a couple of characters share some of the qualities of people I know or knew. It ends up being easier for me, because I know just what they’re personality is, and how they would react in a particular situation. Some of the events in my book are events that have happened in reality, with some elaboration of the truth here and there.
    I agree, I would feel awkward having family members read it (while I’m working on it), but it’s more of a self-conscious thing. So I won’t have them read it, not until after it’s published, and by then it wouldn’t matter to me.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      My current writing project focuses on family relationships, and I’m especially concerned about my family reading too much into it(such as the daughter having a bad relationship with her dad, and a weak mother, etc.). But the personalities are significantly different than my own parents, so hopefully they won’t see it as a reflection of my thoughts.

  4. Excellent post today. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed it very much.

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    Writers Wanted

  5. For me, there doesn’t seem to be a distinction. I think parts of me come across in my writing, and I don’t mind that. I share all my work with my husband and occasionally he raises an eyebrow as if to say “ahhhh, so that’s what you really think about blah blah” 😉

    All the characters I’ve done (and I’m still doing) for the A-Z Challenge, none of them are real people. A couple of them have been influenced by real people I know (certain elements of their personality) and there’s one who probably has more of me in her than any of the others, but, I guess I just pressure that everyone understands that lol. I hope no one thinks that one of them is really me lol

    Thought provoking post hon 🙂

    Xx

    • Aly Hughes says:

      haha, That’s how my boyfriend is too! He’s a writer as well, though he tends to try to glean too much from my writing.

      I definitely try not have characters be exactly like me or people I know, but I have pulled traits here and there. And I’d be a tad concerned if you were some of the characters in the A-Z challenge! 🙂

  6. Samir says:

    I understand how scary it can be. I had similar problems in the past and still, with a couple of ideas and stories I want to write, it’s a very sensitive issue that makes me feel I’m threading on thin ice. But I know myself, I’ll end up writing those stories, I’ll show then to my writing group for feedback and then I’ll try to publish them. I always do this because I believe that in every piece of writing, a part of the writer is in it. At least if it comes from the heart – as writing ought to.

    So yes, it’s scary, intimidating and makes me wish I could read minds when confronted outside my comfort zone. Now here’s the upside- I feel liberated after writing it, more liberated after showing it my a writing group (it’s very important that you are tight with this group and also professional, feedback is about the material and not the writer), and getting it published just shows me I’m a professional trying to tell my stories in the best writing possible.

    I say, go for it. Don’t live in fear from other peoples expectations or reactions, just do your thing and keep writing
    .
    Hope this helps.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      Thank you for being so positive! It does help knowing hearing about others getting over that fear and sharing their work. I think it will take me some time, as only very few people have read my more personal writings. But hopefully the more I do it the less daunting it will seem.

      “Don’t live in fear from other peoples expectations or reactions, just do your thing and keep writing” – I love that, it’s something I needed to hear! 🙂

  7. Pingback: Revealing Writer « Honesty

  8. Ava Alexus says:

    Writing is personal. We all have facets that we don’t share with everyone for a variety of reasons. Perhaps sometimes we worry that we’ll be judged or misunderstood (I think it’s harder to take it from those that are close to us than those we don’t know) and so therefore it’s easier to compartmentalise. I don’t distinguish, but I know some of what I write is not everyone’s cup of tea.

    • Aly Hughes says:

      I’ve definitely dealt with people by compartmentalizing. Even growing up I’d act as a chameleon, shifting traits to adapt to different people. Someone once commented that they disliked that about me, because they felt like I was somehow being insincere or untrue to myself. I never saw it like that because I felt like there were so many sides to me, that it just naturally occurred. That is, until the other day when a friend of mine (who just got a job as a software design engineer at microsoft) made an offhand comment about me writing, I immediately shut down. I probably won’t talk to her again about my writing, though it did make me wonder where to draw the line with how I act around people. Certain personality traits being dominant with other people is fine, but actively hiding something so important to me seems…pointless. Although perhaps she didn’t start out as a toxic friend but is fast becoming one?

      • Ava Alexus says:

        Hmm, I find that interesting (and sadly a very judgemental comment to be told that someone doesn’t like that aspect of you). I don’t believe that you can be the exact same person with everyone and it’s not always a matter of adapting, it can be a matter of what people draw out of you—the push/pull aspect. Some people bring out the best and others not so much. Some encourage us to be vocal and others to listen, some uninhibited and others subdued. I would find it difficult to believe that most of us don’t do it to some extent, or then again maybe I’m completely wrong; however, I do know that sometimes while we can get close, we cannot be that “everything” to every person. That’s why we have different different interests and different friends to share them with, and the wonderful capacity for learning more about ourselves and sometimes letting others show us things we haven’t seen before.

        I guess the point is, it would be nice to feel like you don’t have to hide, but sometimes it’s not always possible. Maybe it’s not actively hiding but hiding by way of omission or non-disclosure.

        At the end of the day, there’s a reason and that is the awareness of possible consequences. In all honesty it is hard to find people that accept you entirely for who you are with the understanding that you may not always share the same interests but they’ll encourage you no matter what and understand that we’re all still growing and learning and it doesn’t stop… (well that’s subjective). We can always hope though. 🙂

  9. robincoyle says:

    Several people have asked me if I am the character in my book. The answer is no, yes, and maybe.

  10. Pretty much everyone in my family is a farmer, or they used to farm, or had something to do with that sort of line of work. My mother has told me on more than one occassion that “I sound like I’m about to top myself” in some of my poetry when most of the time I’m dancing (well out of the sight of others) around the kitchen with a rather embarassing selection of mature chedder playing on my ipod.
    My point, though it may have got lost within the wandering of my thoughts, is that when you write something it is your opinion that matters most. If you like it/love it then never mind what anyone else thinks. Shove it under the noses of enough people and eventually you will find someone who agrees with you. Then if all else fails but the kettle on and make a cup of tea. (Tea solves all poblems, unless you don’t like tea and then you can drink coffee/hot chocolate/whatever normally cheers you up, avoiding alcohol, alcohol does not solves problems)
    I think that I’ve said what I intended to say, I can’t quite be sure seeing as I’m on a little bit of a caffine high, so cheerio and toodle pip!

    • Aly Hughes says:

      haha, tea is my drink of choice! 😉

      I know you’re right, that above all it’s my opinion that matters. Executing that might take me some time though! It can be difficult when the skeptical people more than well outnumber the encouraging ones.
      Also, my dad grew up as a farmer, though he eventually found his way into a very different line of work. I have a feeling that the rest of my family is far too sensible for their own good!

  11. For better or worse, my family are mostly not that interested in my writing. When I published A Sane Woman on paper I gave out copies as Christmas presents. A couple of people emailed me to say they’d liked it, but that was it. No details, and no expressed desire to read more.

    So, they may well be making assumptions or judgements about me based on my writing, but at least they’re keeping quiet about it. 🙂

  12. Jeannie says:

    Aly, I’ve found that my family and friends don’t get it–this creative side of me, the outpouring, the work! In fact, they rarely read what I write–they’re that disinterested. It does bother me, I admit, but I can’t stop and rearrange things to suit them. In my little corner of the world, I’m my own shining light and they sadly, are still in the darkness. Their loss! So, you know what? I say be true to yourself. This is your work–your life–you’re outpouring. No matter what you do, they probably won’t understand where you’re coming from and will only see what they want to see. You need to do what satisfies your soul. If anyone of them come to see the light…then that is a gift to you. But please yourself dear. Really, you will be much more content and creative when you stop worrying about their acceptance. Accept yourself and fly!

    • Aly Hughes says:

      You’re absolutely right, they’ll only see what they want to. You’re awesome for not letting that hold you back, and it’s something I’m slowly learning to do. Thank you for the encouragement! 🙂

  13. Kristan Hoffman just wrote a good post about this, called “The Pesky Problem of Reader Assumptions”: http://bit.ly/JpmWyC

    • Aly Hughes says:

      That was a really good post, I’m glad you linked it! It’s definitely something I’ll have to face as a writer, so it’s just learning to deal with it without letting it hold back my writing.

  14. This happens to all writers/artists. No matter how much you try, you’re still creating a self-portrait. Because everything you write is based on your feelings and emotions and experiences. And it makes sense. From a strict psychological point of view, you’re the one person you know best in the world. So your characters and situations are bound to have a bit of you in them; parts you have, parts you don’t have and wish to have. It’s like in a dream; we’re each and everyone of our characters.

    I used to fear that as well. Sharing my work with my friends. In fact, I didn’t like telling people that I write. I felt that this statement could bring a lot of misjudgement upon me as a person. And I tried to set a wall between me, the writer, and me, the person. I know it’s mostly a subconscious process, but I tried to add very little details from my own life into my stories. Because I was afraid that my friends, if they were to read my stories, would see me inside them. It was a silly thing to fear. Now, I don’t really care, because I figured out that, unless you write about yourself, about what you know and what you fear, or experienced, your writing will feel empty. As I said earlier, to draw inspiration from one’s life, is what makes art unique.

    My mother never understood why I write, but never complained about it either. She doesn’t even like to read. I guess I fell as far from the tree as possible.

    This comment is incredibly long so I’ll finish with this: it seems to me that when we read a story by a writer we don’t know, we feel that we get to know them, to get inside their head and see the world through their eyes; but when we read something written by friend, it feels as if we’ve never known them. I guess that we all put in your stories the parts of ourselves that we keep locked in the most hidden drawers of our souls.

  15. rtd14 says:

    I understand completely what you are saying, and you are not alone. Yes, it is very hard to distinguish your personal self from the writer. I’m writing about this very thing and in the professional setting. I’ve worked as a news staff writer when I had to keep my personal thoughts to myself other than the writing. In reality, I did not have a problem with it, because the writing I produced was for money. I took pride in the stories I wrote, because it had my name on it.

    At the time I left full-time journalism, I experienced a darker time in my life both personally and professionally so the two converged together into a car wreck. I also stopped writing for four months outside of news stories.

    I think in terms of creative production, there is a small part of ourselves in it no matter what we do, but there is also the influence of others in our lives. People are always looking to read below the surface. There is nothing we can do about it. It’s the for the same reason I’ve been very hesistant to share anything from my novel except the shorts I post sometimes based on the background.

    Sometimes our darkest or happiest thoughts appear on the page no matter our intentions.

    I know long response. Thanks for making me think! Great post!

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