The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Short Stories and More…

Writing From the Heart

Woman holding mirror to self

Image credit: Mathieu Stern, Unsplash

Last week in writers’ group, we were tasked with writing a letter to our younger self. What sort of advice would we give ourselves? They say hindsight is always 20/20… what would we do differently?

I thought about my letter for a long time before I started writing. I addressed the letter to my 15 year old self: I was an emo teen before it was cool. My parents were ending their marriage, I was with a narcissistic jealous boyfriend, and I was fast approaching the point where I would finish school with no idea of what to do afterwards.

Writing the letter was somewhat cathartic. When I read it out in its entirety to the group, I felt my heart open. I was vulnerable. But safe- I trust the group.

Some of the themes within the letter come out in my regular writing: my strong feminist views, my intolerance of bullshit, my anger towards my father. My stories feature women who often don’t know their own strength until a moment where they snap. They take back their power. They rise above the bullshit.

I wrote in my last post that most of my stories result in death. The death of a character, usually male, is symbolic of all the guys I’ve risen above in my life. There’s that first boyfriend, whom I dumped when I finally realised he cared more about himself than he did me. There’s my first serious boyfriend and my first broken heart, who taught me so many things about toxicity in relationships and why I need to hold my own power. There’s my father, whose mistakes in life taught me to take responsibility for my actions, especially when they hurt other people. And there’s my current boyfriend, who loves and supports all my crazy ideas because he ultimately wants me to succeed.

As writers and as people, we are constantly learning and changing. Some of what we write will be pure gold, other things won’t. Some stories will just connect with people, others won’t. And that’s all okay.

Writing is the soundtrack to my life. I write from the heart because that’s what I know. I may get inspiration from seemingly random things around me, but ultimately, what you read is me purging some aspect of my hidden self.

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April 8, 2019 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections, Writing Journey | , , | 1 Comment

What Happens When Your Audience Misses Intent?

Writers tools iPhone typewriter pen notepad

In writers’ group last week, we were given a writing exercise in which we had to write from pure emotion. For those playing at home, it’s called The Cup by Julia Cameron in her book, The Right to Write. You tap into something that was emotionally charged for you and write from that emotion.

The tale I told stemmed from an incident about 15 years ago, involving the father of my then-boyfriend. I chose this particular incident because a few days prior to writers’ group, I heard about the father’s death. Despite not having any contact with him for years and not even thinking about him, I began processing all the shitty things he’d done during the time I was with his son.

This particular incident took place at my birthday dinner at Pizza Hut. Since my family lived a hike away, my boyfriend’s family took me to this dinner. My boyfriend’s father, John (not his real name) spent the whole dinner telling me about the time my boyfriend Tim (not his real name) was kicked out of horse riding camp after being caught literally having a roll in the hay with a girl. I already knew about the story and was generally okay with it. However, this was MY birthday dinner, and I did not appreciate the story being rehashed repeatedly.

So, this writing exercise was me dealing with my unresolved anger over this incident. When the allotted writing time was over, we paired up and read our stories. My writing partner Paul (not his real name) laughed at everything John had said.

Wait, what? This was not a funny story! This was a story full of anger, despicable behaviour, and plain rudeness. There was nothing about this story that was funny! Clearly, Paul had completely missed the point of my story.

Or had he? At the time, I was quite annoyed that Paul had missed the intent of my writing. As I drove home, I pondered both my story and Paul’s reaction. Removing myself from the incident, I tried to see if John’s behaviour was actually funny.

Nope.

What does this say about my audience, in this case, Paul? What happens when your audience misses the point?

Regular readers will know I have a degree in Communications. One of the units I studied was semiotics, where we learned about assigned meanings and how/why we assign meaning based on hegemony and our own backgrounds blah blah blah. It’s actually quite interesting once you wrap your head around the concepts. Being the giant nerd I am, I dissected Paul’s reaction. Paul is of an older generation than I, similar in age to John. Would Paul regale a similar story to his son’s girlfriend at her own birthday dinner? I’d like to think not, but I’m not so sure. Obviously there is a generational and gender difference in my anger and Paul’s laughter.

So, what does this mean if you write something emotionally charged for you and your audience just doesn’t get it?

Perhaps in some cases, it warrants a rewrite to elicit the emotion you’re looking for. For creative writing, there is always going to be a section of the audience who do not react the way you hope they will. They may not like your writing (and that’s perfectly fine). They may not have had experiences in their own life which gives them empathy to feel your intent. Or, the story may just be hilarious and you have missed the point. When writing a novel, for example, your audience comes from a wide background. It may be that the only thing which they have in common is that they have read your novel. (When writing for a specific audience, eg advertising, you know exactly what your audience profile is.)

Ultimately, if your audience misses your intent, it’s not the end of the writing world. It’s what makes book clubs interesting. It engages people to debate, whether in person or social media or blogs. It elicits a response from your readers, and that is the whole point of writing in the first place.

February 25, 2019 Posted by | Thoughts & Reflections, Writing Journey | , , , , | 1 Comment