Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fiction as autobiography

All fiction may be autobiography, but all autobiography is of course fiction.
  • Shirley Abbott, quoted in Mickey Pearlman, Listen to Their Voices (1993), ch. 12
The past two weeks have been exciting in my journey as a writer.  First, I received notification of my first acceptance of an article other than a traditional medical journal article.  This surprised me greatly. Two other pieces I submitted elsewhere were rejected.  This is not a big surprise since most submissions are rejected, but still is disheartening.  And the most important is that through a Writer's Workshop, I learned a very important lesson--"write the pain."  This is why I think the one was accepted and the others not.  It showed the pain.  The others seem to be more interesting topics, but I think the emotion wasn't raw.  It wasn't on the surface. 

The piece that was accepted showed the pain.  It was my experience of the death of my mother.  I have long understood that the experience has helped me in relating to patients when I have had to deliver bad news.  My mother and the stories she told have been a major inspiration to my decision to write, even though I lost her just over thirty years ago this week.  Perhaps that anniversary was also important at the subconscious level in my sense of feeling the pain.

I also realized with the help of my instructor and other students in the workshop how my novel is autobiographical in an emotional way, and how when I can feel in some way what I have my characters feeling that my writing is better.  So, I need to "write the pain" in order to feel genuine.

My pain and loss is very different than that of the characters I am writing about, but my experience of my mother's death helps me to understand both the pain of my characters and the pain of my patients and their families.

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