Sometimes it’s easy for us as writers to blur the lines between our writing life and real life. And there are many reasons why that happens. But there are also good reasons why we should not let that happen.
My writing career really took off when my father was dying of cancer. It hit me hard, knowing that my father would be gone from my life in a matter of months. In fact, I went to counseling because I was so depressed. As part of my unofficial therapy (and I didn’t realize it was such until later), I started writing stories that had to do with incidents growing up that involved my father. The fact that I was writing something personal and emotional I think played a big part in my finally getting published. I developed a name among certain magazines, and my ability to get published took off from there.
And I continue to tell my students that their best writing will always come from the emotional, often painful, parts of their lives. Delving into those thoughts and memories gives us a power of description and emotion that we otherwise don’t have. I have a tendency to want to write escapist literature, but I know that even that is best when it has personal touches in it.
But writing is not real life. Those who are obsessive as I am about writing have to be careful. Having been published many times, I realize that getting your name on a book cover or a byline in a magazine is not going to make your daily challenges go away. Being recognized by readers won’t pay your bills (at least all of them). It’s a nice feeling, being published and being recognized. But in the end, it’s just another job.
And that’s the quandary. Writing is more than a job–it’s an identity. But it’s not all of your life. Nor should it be.