Just Because I Write It, Doesn’t Mean I Do It

11 Apr

Yesterdays post was about learning about what you don’t know, to write what you do know. Today we are talking about the fear of telling what you dont actually know, but your reader believing this is your experience.

(That was quite a mouthful for an opening paragraph, apologies for that).

This is, I believe, is a rookie writers fear. I say that knowing full well I still awake in the night panicking that I have written something that may make others think differently of me.

Who cares you say, what does it matter? You are a writer, your job is to tell a story, it can’t always be ‘truly you’. But you must write what you know, and you must give a certain amount of your self to each  story – at least one of the characters must be you.

I think my head may explode with all the contradictory information out there.

Just because you write about an axe murderer, doesn’t mean you are slightly unhinged and could lose it and carry out your protagonists actions in the middle of the night – just because you think it, doesn’t mean you would do it.

Just because you write about airhead blonde girls who have a vocabulary of five words doesn’t mean that is a reflection of you.

Just because you write about a world where everyone has three hands and the sun is blue, doesn’t mean you have been there.

Just because you write about the death of a child and it makes your readers cry doesn’t show you are sharing a secret that no one knows about.

All of this, and everything else you can think of simply says one thing, you are a writer, and to be honest, if your reader believes you lived it, it means you are one of the best.

You can’t always write about what you know, as per yesterdays post, you can’t always tap into someone elses memory, but what you can use is your imagination, mixed in with a bit of empathy.

In my mind, all this leaves is our own demons, our own self doubt I guess. Can it be likened to our multiple personalities? You know, our face for friends, and our face for family? Is it the same demon that says I can’t post that on Facebook, I don’t want (INSERT NAME) seeing that. At what point, as a writer, do you have to accept by writing we are giving away more than the average joe. As a writer you aren’t tight-lipped, you are always talking, every time someone reads your work, your voice is speaking.

Have I lost you?

The point is, all of that contradictory information is correct. Writing is not like being a hairdresser. At best a hair cut lasts 4-6 weeks, a story lasts forever. You may have a good ability with a pair of scissors, but when writing you use your life, your experience, your memories, your observations, your heart your soul (add more cheese here). Every story is a bit of you, just not the whole you.


16 Responses to “Just Because I Write It, Doesn’t Mean I Do It”

  1. Ariana April 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    Great Post Ellie and a great title too! Just because I write does not mean I do it – love it!

    • Ellie April 11, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

      Hi Ariana! So good for you to drop by – and thank you – generally I am RUBBISH at titles…

  2. Laney April 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    Nope, you haven’t lost me. This topic crosses my mind almost daily. It is me in my stories. My voice, my thoughts and ideas, and yes, I agree, one of those characters has me or you, or that person over there, all wrapped up in them. I don’t believe it’s something a writer can escape. Our stories won’t resonate without our hearts and minds feeding them. And sometimes our prior experiences. And that can be scary. What if people hate it? I’ve said that a million times. What if they do? That’s the chance we take though. Hopefully at the end of the day we are all writing for ourselves and not for everyone else. Still…come publication day, I’ll be the most anxious person on the planet. Great post, Ellie.

    • Ellie April 11, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

      Laney!! Its scary how much you give and thats where the lines get blurred because sometimes they are not your actions. I have never been chased by a manic with a knife, but I sure can imagine the fear. If I translate that to the page I did well. 9I think you said this but much better lol!)

      If people hate my writing, well, im a bit of a baddy here and I will berate myself for not trying hard enough, or even worse, chasing a pipe dream. Will I say its their loss? No chance, it will be me who was the fool.

      But you are brilliant…keep writing!

  3. Skyler :) April 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    I was so glad to read this. I often feel this way when I write, because I’m so young. The novel I’m working on now is very dark and has adult content. I constantly think “what if someone I know reads this and suddenly thinks ‘well he’s not the good kid everyone thought he was'”. That in itself terrifies me a little bit. I believe it was you, or perhaps someone else, who once asked ‘do we limit what we write based on what those around us will think?’ it’s a question I have always struggled with and probably always will. It’s hard, but this post helps! 🙂

    • Ellie April 11, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

      Skyler I dont think it is your age, I think it really is about having courage of conviction (yeah I did just get in a line from legally blonde!!! ha ha). I think the point we are missing is when we write, if we do it well, regardless of the nature of the content all will be ready to praise for the qulaity, and not be second guessing/judging. Lack of confidence is a terrible thing and i say go for it Skyler – you can do it (punches the air with her fist in some cheesy delirium drived from an american teen comedy!)

      • Skyler :) April 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

        I love that legally blonde quote! 🙂 anyway, I totally agree! Also, I hope you got my email and the follow up attachment.

  4. Elizabeth April 11, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    I was soooo glad to read your post today. I struggle with this issue all the time. I sometimes write dark stuff and worry that people are going to think that I am a sicko disguised as a suburban mom, but I can usually get over that fairly quickly. Where I have run into real problems is in my women’s fiction projects. My current work-in-progress is about a woman who’s husband is cheating on her. I am happily married but I have lost a lot of sleep worrying that people are going to think the novel is about my marriage. I’ve even thought about publishing under a pen name to save my husband any grief by association.

    • Ellie April 11, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

      Snap! Even as I wrote the post, I didnt want to say anything that directly related to stuff like that in case it was thought I was covering my back! My brain goes round and round in circles. For some reason, i have convinced myself that saying oh im no axe murderer is ok, where as if i say, oh im not getting a divorce, that means im getting a divorce but i didnt want to tell y’all!

      I wrote a post last year about pen names, rather than this reason, we all discussed our fear of writing anything of a ‘bedroom’ nature – something tells me we all have reasons for a pen name, but none of us truly want to use them. I think we just need to shake our concerns off and hold our heads proud and just keep saying ‘its just a story’.

      Thanks for popping by!

  5. MisterHessu April 11, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Reblogged this on Crow and Canary Book Series and commented:
    This is just spot on. I had a similar fear about people mistaking me and my real actions with the atrocities of my characters in Crow and Canary. This post made me think of that fear and it strenghtened my thoughts about why that fear isn’t rational. Every writer should read this!

  6. MisterHessu April 11, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    This was a great post. As a writer I have had thoughts in the similar vein. This actually troubled me a lot at one point. I have this serial killer as one of the antagonists in my first published book, and there are some very brutal events in the first book and the one following it, which I’m writing at the moment. So your sentence “Just because you write about an axe murderer, doesn’t mean you are slightly unhinged and could lose it and carry out your protagonists actions in the middle of the night – just because you think it, doesn’t mean you would do it” was pretty much spot on with my thoughts. I didn’t really think anyone would think I’m a sociopathic murderer because I’m writing about one, but I did fear people might think that writing about the character and his actions would be an indicator of me being sick, twisted and whathaveyou. I actually talked about this fear to my teacher, who said, very wisely in my opinion, that “You can’t think like that, no one could write anything if they thought like that”, or something like that, I don’t remember exactly.

    In the end though, I believe a writer should write about anything he wants to tell about. I love Stephen King, who has all manner of sick stuff in his books. Hell, I read this comic book and on the very first page there was more brutal and disgusting violence than in my book.. And the authors probably had no problem with it, or the readers. So why should I have, or why would my readers have?

    I think anyone who thinks a writer’s writings reflect the writer’s personality directly in such an extreme way that he would think the writer is sick just because of him writing something “sick” is just plain wrong. We all have our dark sides. I actually think there is nothing sick in writing about the things stemming from your dark side. A piece of text never hurt anyone. Hiding your dark side, obsessing about it and trying to fake it doesn’t exist is what’s dangerous. That’s just my two cents.

    All in all, a great post that really made me think! Thank you!

    • Ellie April 11, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment – and to drop by.

      I think these fears we carry as writers are just within ourself, possibly even just a confidence issue. I have certainly never read another authors work and thought they were revealing anything other than a great story. Funny how the mind works huh?

      I think your teacher is very wise. It is true you would never write anything, having said that, if I allowed my fears to take control I doubt I would ever leave the house or speak with another human again. The difference when it comes to writing is becaise it is there forever, a comment made in conversation is often forgotten, or if inclined, you can deny EVERYTHING lol! Words in black and white, theres no going back!

      And yes, hiding your dark side is probably the most dangerous thing you can do.

      • submeg April 19, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

        Hi Ellie,

        Like I said on Laney’s post, I haven’t for a second sat back and thought, hmm, I don’t know if I should have written that. I go with the flow and tell the story like it should be told. If you tried to base the entire book on things you know, it would end up being an autobiograpy, not fiction.

        you are a writer, and to be honest, if your reader believes you lived it, it means you are one of the best.
        So true!

      • Ellie April 24, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

        Do you never just doubt yourself, like if it is written maybe a little close to the mark? i definitely think it is a confidence thing and if you have that going for you, you are onto a winner!


  1. Wait….Should I Write That? | Laney McMann YA Writer - April 13, 2012

    […] My fellow writer, and friend, Elena Ransley wrote a post the other day titled, Just because I write it, doesn’t mean I did it. Her post is here: Elena Ransley’s Blog […]

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