Monday, June 10, 2013

Learning about Self through the Act of Writing

Use the creative process … to get to know yourself better. -Catie Curtis

When we discuss writing, we often talk about the preparation needed to gear us up to write; the important aspects of writing, such as character, plot, dialogue, and scene development; the need to be a good self-editor and to find an even better professional editor; the ins and outs of writing sparkling queries and synopses for agents and publishers; and the ins and outs of going the self-publishing route. In short, we focus on the writing, submitting, and publishing of stories, which is good. We need to talk about these things.

We don’t, however, talk much about what we learn about ourselves in the act of writing. And that’s just as important. We are the vessels in which stories flow. If we’re not checking on ourselves, our connection(s) to what we write; our common threads, themes that can be seen within our works; and how what we write might even change us, we may find ourselves churning out the same story with different titles, writing stories that don’t affect us, that don’t make us grow as writers.

This isn’t something I think about with every story I write. Every two, three stories, I find myself thinking about where I’ve grown as a writer. How my interests have changed… or even if they have changed. Where I see myself moving as a writer. Doing so keeps me a vital cog in this writing journey, helps me to refine my brand and platform, and helps me to see the trajectory of the journey.

I’ve learned a few things about myself through my writing, especially in projects I’m currently working on. Two big things are I care about the “broken” woman and I care about devastating things that go on in the world, those women that have a strength they haven’t found yet because the burdens of life weigh them down and those devastating things that often leave me in tears, confused about how people can be so cruel and inflict so much pain. Through my writing, I try to understand these women, to find ways in which the burdens can be lifted and the strength restored. Through my writing, I try to get into the minds of those who do devastating things or of those who have suffered so that I can find, in some way, understanding.

If I can learn something in the act of my writing, then I can use what I learn to give advice, to help people outside the pages.

What have you learned about yourself through your writing?

Shon Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, and educator. She has published both academically and creatively while also interviewing women writers on her popular blog, ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. In 2012, her second mystery, Into the Web and her short story "I Wanna Get Off Here" (in the short story collection, The Corner Cafe) were published. Her latest release, Saying No to the Big O, was published in April 2013. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy writing her dissertation ... and trying to find the time to write CREATIVELY.


  1. Shon, Excellent post. I haven't been plugging away at fiction writing long enough or consistently enough to glean insights about myself that I didn't start out with. However, since childhood, poetry has been my main form of written expression, and it is great look back through them to see "me" at various stages throughout the years. And one great leap where the tenor of my poems changed was when I found faith in God as an adult. The poems became more settled, though not with losing the probing and questioning that always marked me. I call the early poems, "Glimpses of my Wanderings," and the later ones, "I've Come Home."

  2. Interesting post. I fear I'm the sort who wants to escape when reading, and those are the books I write as well. In fact, the hardest part about sharing any writing when I first began was the fear that people would think my characters were "me." I prefer to hide when I write, escaping to my world where things all come out all right in the end.

    Terry's Place

  3. Shon, it's hard to be glib when someone bares their soul in a post like this ... but I'll do it anyway ... just kidding. Seriously, I think much of your sentiment has to do with age ... when you're in the third act of your own personal play, all the conflict and drama of life is behind you ... you don't get wrapped around the axle about stuff anymore ... you just try to have fun.

  4. Shon you sound like my kind of writer! This post really spoke to my heart. I too write stories of perseverance and hope. 'Cause wow, if there are two things you need in publishing, it's perseverance and hope!

    The novel coming out in January was such a journey of healing for me after my first husband's suicide. My protagonist, who was much more raw and angry in early drafts, healed and matured right along with me. I went from a woman full of anger for what her husband had done to a woman who could now have empathy for his plight. I owe that all to my novel.

    And Christopher—thanks for giving us a peek at the person wearing the comedy shirt. Nice to see you. ;)

  5. Kathryn, I was once mowing the lawn sans shirt ... my wife ran out and told me to put it back on ... quickly ... it was scaring the neighborhood women and children.

  6. Haha! Thanks for adding the visual!

  7. Alison, thanks for the comments. And you know, you mentioning your great leap made me think about that as well. Finding faith in God was also a big turning point for me and for my writing.

  8. I totally get that, Terry. I think that also might shed light, too. The want to escape says as much about you as any other thing people might learn about themselves in the act of writing.

  9. You should have been glib, Christopher. I always enjoy it! :-) Having read your comment, I'm looking forward to the third act a bit. Me and my axle get SO close, SO often!

  10. Hey there, Kathryn! I can't wait to read your novel. And you are SO right about perseverance and hope as needed tools in publishing!

  11. Shon, do you know about Story Circle Network? "For women with stories to tell." It's a lifewriting group started by Susan Wittig Albert based in Austin, TX. It might be something of interest to you as related to examining your life through personal writing. Terrific organization. They have a conference coming up early next year.

  12. Deborah Turner HarrisJune 10, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    About the time I handed in the third book in my Caledon trilogy, I suddenly realised that all my works are about redemption. Funny how long it takes for the penny to drop.

    Thanks for your insights!

  13. Hey there, Dani.

    I've heard of Story Circle Network, but never checked it out fully. Will do so now, :-)

  14. Thanks for commenting, Deborah! You know, for some, that "penny" never drops!

  15. All stories, like all lives, should have purpose. For our characters to ring true, they must connect with our readers on an emotional level. When we care, our characters care (at least some of them). When we change and grow, our characters change and grow. Only then can we take our readers' hands and show them the way.

    Great post, Shon! :-)

  16. Thanks, Shon. You're right that creative writing is an intensely personal matter. We put our souls into it, to coin a cliche - and our souls change with time. I'm amazed when I look back at stories I wrote five years ago to see how far I have changed, as a person.

    That said, as we mature as professional writers, we stop taking our work personally. At least, we should. If an editor wants to change something, fine. They're not tampering with our souls...

  17. Catie, I enjoyed reading your post. I haven’t gotten into a rhythm yet in the books I’ve written. I’ve written while learning and trying new things at the same time. For this reason the sub-themes are different, aside from universal themes, and the stories quite different.

    As far as getting into any minds and giving advice to help people outside the pages, I’ve struggled with a curious phenomenon in which people try to get into mine based on what I write. (The layperson version of psychoanalysis.) It isn’t a nice experience and so I will refrain from saying anything introspective or too profound in this type of forum.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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