Writing from your own life is an interesting idea. Of course, it can be highly successful – plenty of autobiographies become best sellers, and everyone wants to hear about the lives of famous and successful people in an attempt to replicate that success for themselves. But what does that entail? If we take me, for example, I have plenty of life stories to tell; I could talk about faking my way into a press conference with media like Seven News and 2GB radio, or I could tell you about starting my own business with one of my best friends, or I could even relate to you the crushing experiences I’ve had with heartbreak in my tender nineteen years of being alive.
These are all things that have merit in being told; they tell of success, adventure and romance – three very popular genres in readerships worldwide. In fact, I’ve done this before for university. The only issue is framing it. Real life is, for the most part, very dull. Those things I’ve mentioned are the most interesting things that have happened to me, and after that things fall off rapidly. Worse still, they are only snippets in time – moments compared to the rest of my mundane life. So in order to write from real life, we have to frame it into something interesting, a story that someone wants to read.
This can come in many forms. The first is simply a retelling. I remember as a primary school student, we would be asked to do recounts of things that had happened to us. I would always hate them, and to be honest I’m still against them. They can be horribly boring to read because it is just someone’s experience recounted to you. Another way is to reframe it as fiction, keeping most of the reality but morphing it into a tangible storyline with more fleshed out characters. Or you can do it in a series of images – not literal ones, but writing evocatively to establish a scene so that it doesn’t come across as recounting, but is still writing reality.
Another obstacle is, of course, reminiscence. Of the three that I mentioned before, I chose heartbreak to write about. It happened at the time of a final assessment being due, and before it, none of my other ideas were sticking. However, when it came to workshopping, the consensus was I had to make it more personal. If I was to stick to writing this story, I was going to have to write it out completely. And it was one of the hardest pieces I wrote because I hadn’t given myself time to heal and look back, that wound was still very much open and each sentence became gut-wrenching but beautiful. I took one of the worst things’ that has happened to me and made it good, even though looking back I am glad things panned out the way they did.
And I think that is one of the benefits is writing from your own life. I think the concept is inevitable; we shape our writing with our life experiences, morals, fears and ambitions. As the artist, we put ourselves into our art. However taking the reality and using only that as a story is hard, both stylistically and emotionally. It’s putting your life out there on the line to be read and critiqued, both positively and negatively. I think it has to be done in good taste, and it has to be presented as art; not a lament to your own sadness or a boast to your own success.
When you write, above all else, it is and should be considered art – to be appreciated or looked past depends on the quality, but writing is to be read and your reader should always come first.