The Writer Must Believe In What He Writes

Stanislavski asked his actors:

“Are you in love with the art in yourself or yourself in the art?”

I often examine my own motives for writing the way I do.

Konstantin Stanislavski has that effect on me. Even though he’s known for teaching actors to inhabit their characters on stage, these lessons can be applied to writing as well. I love when I can take a technique from one discipline and apply it to another.

I’m fascinated by the creative process.

The main push of Stanislavski’s methodology was emotional authenticity. Maybe that’s why I’m influenced by this Russian actor’s insight. He urged his students to draw on personal experience while they explored their characters.

That’s not to say, as writers, we can’t explore areas we’ve never experienced–such as grief, terror, abuse, etc. It’s just that, for me personally, I find it more challenging to write about something I’ve never experienced. Maybe that’s why I’m not drawn to fiction writing.

Imagine me trying to bring a comic (fictional) character to life. It would be less than convincing. The early stages of character design would come across as phony. I don’t care how many revisions I made to the storyline, it would still sound insincere. Why? Because I lack the necessary imagination to capture the nuances of a comedic figure.

I cannot write what I do not know.

So, I write what I do know. Nonfiction. REAL life. REAL stories.

I write about what I love, what I hate, what I fear, what I envy. I write about courage, insecurity, and hope. I write about grace. I write about falling down and getting back up. Again. And again.

Every tear, every smile, every experience is tucked away in my heart. Then, when the time is right, when I feel most convicted, I unpack those feelings the best way I can.

Each story I write says this to my audience:

I believe life is like this . . . What do you believe?

And then, my dear audience, the conversation begins.

This is why I stick to my own script. I want my writing to remain authentic.

I also write what I believe in hopes of finding common ground with my audience. Whenever I hit “publish” on a post, and send it off to the WordPress reader, I look forward to making a connection with my readers. If I don’t, I’m not crushed. I’ve realized that my writing can’t please everyone.

But when I do make that connection with another reader, it’s like hitting blog gold. Suddenly, I don’t feel alone. I feel like we’re on this journey together.

Guess you could say I’ve had several revelations this past week about writing and community. But I don’t want to dole out my thoughts on writing for an audience just yet. I could spoil things.

I’ll shut up and let you talk now.

Do you write what you know? Or, do you write about things you’ve never experienced, emotionally or otherwise?

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41 thoughts on “The Writer Must Believe In What He Writes

  1. I’m completely with you. I only write what I know, drawing from my own personal experience. If I write fiction, although certain things can be made up like setting, I still use my own observation from real life to describe characters and their mannerisms.

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    1. You’re good at writing what you know, Darla. It’s sincere and honest. I do admire the fact that you’ve take a jab at fiction. I never have, and I don’t think I ever will.

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    1. Maybe that’s why we’re drawn to each other. Neither one of us are afraid to be “seen.” Transparency is more endearing to me than a box of chocolates. Guess it depends on my mood. Chocolate has been known to satisfy a need or two.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I wrote about my own life story and had them published recently and still I had to do some research to validate some parts. It would be impossible to write about subjects one doesn’t know about, because to even get something down on paper, one would have to know something. πŸ™‚

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    1. Excellent point. Every author, writer, must draw inspiration from somewhere. Since writing fiction is out of my realm of possibilities, I stand in awe of those who can create characters that have universal appeal. Also, congratulations on having your life story published. What an exciting time for you!!

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      1. Thanks a lot; although if you read about my journey on my blog home page, I am still one foot in the grave with chronic illness. All I wish for is my health restored. That would be my greatest achievement. Thanks again and wishing you well πŸ™‚

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  3. I write what I know, (or think I know). My second book, (in progress), is my first fiction attempt, and even in that case the main character has many of the same flaws and attributes as myself. I admire people who can truly “make up” a good story; I’m not one of them. My efforts at poetry are the same – they are me, mostly unadorned and unapologetic, raw, reflecting whatever mood I am in at the time. Peace . . .

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    1. I read a piece on your blog today, and I couldn’t agree more with your style of writing. It’s raw and uncut. I appreciate those qualities in a writer. I also applaud you for taking on a fiction narrative. I’m sure you’ll find your rhythm and do just fine!

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  4. I think we write for many different reasons. When I first started writing my blog, it was a personal journey I decided to embark on. Sharing life experiences, perhaps a bit of humour about middle age, connecting with like-minded people. For that reason, I suppose I write about what I know, or what I have learned.

    What I have come to discover through writing, is that it forces me to think about things in a different light. When I am hoping to convey a thought or an opinion, I am careful to chose my words so as not to rule out someone else’s opinion.

    Wishing you a lovely day!

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    1. Lynn, I started my blog for similar reasons. Some cathartic. Some for selfish reasons, like connecting with others online. Blogging is a unique platform for fostering friendships. The best part is I don’t have to get dressed up to ‘meet’ someone new!
      Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the rest of your evening.

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  5. Being a stay-at-home mom I feel a bit out of my element. Baby dolls, playing house were never my “play” of choice as a young girl.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to be able to spend the time I do with my children but I always wanted something “on the side” (in a non-sexual way πŸ˜‰ )

    I tried a lot of things that took me outside my home and they all caused chaos so I turned to blogging… I have always loved to write but never thought anyone would be interested in reading what I wrote.
    But here I am and I’m really enjoying myself and this WP community!

    I too only write what I know… I assume in 15 years I will look back at what I wrote and be amused at how much I actually didn’t know… but that’s just the joy in the journey!!

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    1. Once you connect with the WP community, it’s hard to quit. Believe me, I’ve tried to quit blogging, but I can’t. Like you, writing helps me process the chaos in life. It has been one of the best stress relievers next to running. Though, it’s been a while since I hit the pavement.
      Now, my fingers are the only thing working out!

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  6. Everything I write is based on my own experiences/kowledge. I can blend in some little fiction, like I did in my first humorous book, but it is clear to the reader that such episodes are imaginary. Like two dogs collaborating to make milkshakes πŸ™‚ Now, I’m working on my second book and that is a real story, memoirs from my time in Africa. Just like you, I don’t think I could come up with fictional characters that would feel real to the reader.

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    1. Tiny, I had no idea that you wrote a fiction book!! If the subjects were dogs, I’m sure the book was convincingly entertaining. I remember reading a few posts about dogs on your blog. Also, congratulations on your second book! I’m sure your memoirs in Africa will be as poignant and telling as your photos.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think you should write what you want. Write what you’re passionate about. That’s my stance. Sometimes fiction can be so tough to write, and I push myself a little bit. I enjoy creating something that wasn’t there before. Keep on writing, whatever you do!

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    1. Amy, we’ve got to stop meeting like this . . . We’re both night owls, right?

      As for writing, I agree. Each person should write as they are led, or convicted. In fact, you were one of the few people I was thinking about when it comes to fiction writing. I’m always amazed at how you can create “something from nothing” for the Friday Fictioneers series.

      I don’t think many writers have the courage or creativity that you possess!

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      1. That’s true. Here we are again! I’m playing a little catch up again. You?

        Aww, you’re sweet. Thanks for that! That means a lot as I struggle through my current story. It’s not writing itself. Darn!

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      2. Yep, playing catch up while the kiddos are asleep.

        About your current story, I’m sure it will come together. We can’t always be “on.” There are peaks and valleys when it comes to story writing.

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    1. Ha! Yes, blogging lottery indeed.
      MJ, it sounds like we both thrive on making quality connections. It’s not about numbers for me . . . it’s about substance and consistency. Enjoy your evening!!

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    1. Kerry, I had no idea that was a secret hope of yours! My advice, channel your grandma and JUST DO IT!!! The words will flow my dear, you have all the heart and imagination in the world.

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  8. Spot on! I’m not a writer, but I play one on TV πŸ˜‰
    I always wanted to write for a living but could never find an authentic fiction voice. What a joy to have discovered what you eloquently discussed above. Non-fiction is a fantastic outlet for me and finding people who are experiencing the same silly life things that I am are a comfort.
    I still enjoy writing (and reading!) fiction, but I keep those pieces in a separate blog and use it as a work station. While I’m learning a lot from the few followers over there, I’m most comfortable in writing what I know–kiddos and life’s messes.
    Great article, Anka–it’s starting to feel like I’ve known you for years πŸ™‚

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    1. Me too! I’m most comfortable when writing about the gosh DARN DAILIES. . . kids, cooking, cleaning, etc. You know the rest.
      But, I’ve got to applaud you Michelle, for experimenting with fiction. I think it’s wonderful that you have a separate blog to showcase this work.

      If you’re anything like me, it’s all about compartmentalizing. Otherwise things can get overwhelming. Some days, my brain needs STOP signs to direct the traffic that’s flowing!

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      1. So true.
        There’s such a comfort in writing about the dailies…like yummy baked potato soup. You described how your blog is an outlet–what a wonderful way to collect precious memories, blessings and life.
        I’m also cracking up at the need for a stop sign–a traffic cop with a whistle might come in handy, too πŸ™‚

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      2. Yes! A whistle would certainly help this OVER thinker. Maybe that’s why I’ve taken up blogging. It helps me sort out the messes in my head. Plus, I truly enjoy making connections with others. It fascinates me that you can develop strong friendships online. At best, even bear one another’s burdens. It’s all about doing life together!!

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  9. I write fiction, and I do try to write what I know, but the more experienced I get with writing, the more I write about what I don’t know, too. It takes a lot of research, but it’s worth the effort. A book comes out with more depth if we expand our writing beyond our own worlds.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Much appreciated!

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    1. I think it’s amazing that you write fiction!! I’m in awe of this craft. Much like fiction, literary journalism requires tons of research, too. The book that comes to mind is The Perfect Storm. Junger had no way of knowing what drowning at sea “felt like.” Yet, he managed to capture this account of six men being whipped at sea without actually being present.

      It was nice ‘meeting’ you today, Carrie. I always LOVE meeting a fellow introvert!!

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  10. **** I want my writing to remain authentic.***
    I agreeeeeeeee.
    As writers/bloggers– if we do not have “VOICE,” Authentic, Real Voice…We have nothing. As for me, these are the writers I want to read, these are the writers that THRILL me, these are the writers who teach me.
    I love what you said about applying other arts to writing. This is the reason I LoooOVE Actor’s Studio. It all fits into raw, real, kick ass writing. You may think I’m strange, but I feel this way about baking/cooking, too!
    I only write what I know, what I experience, my pain, my mourning, my joy, my passion. I mean, how could I write what I don’t know?
    Great Post!!!!!
    btw, I am reading “WILD” at the moment. I LOVE Cheryl Strayed’s Writing.

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    1. Ha! Funny that you mentioned cooking. You gotta have passionate conviction in the kitchen too, or risk smelling like a fake. This is why I stay away from baking. I suck at it and it’s SO obvious!
      I’m glad you stopped by!! It’s wonderful to meet another writer who writes with reckless abandon; even if it means not pleasing your ENTIRE audience. Looking forward to stopping by your place after I feed the kiddos.
      Meanwhile, I’m off to google “WILD” . . .

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    2. Just read a quick review on Strayed’s journey into the wild. I LOVE reading memoirs, especially ones that are filled with pain, confusion, and redemption. Thanks for the recommendation!

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