Who are we? At our core, who are we? What do we stand for in the world? What makes us tick? What do we care about and why do we care about it? How have we made ourselves over the years?
And most importantly, can our writing clue us into the secrets of our soul?
Yes, it can. Of course, it can only do this if we come into it with an open heart and ears ready to listen. What I mean by this is that our true self can only express itself if we are exposing it to the page. If when we write we are attempting to mimic another author or write in any way that isn’t authentic to who we are as a person, it becomes much more difficult to discover the self. And if when we reread our writing we are only looking at it critically and not allowing ourselves to enjoy the experience, we are robbing ourselves of the opportunity to hear our own story.
So in many ways, it’s a two-part dilemma.
First, we must expose ourselves. And second, we must listen to it.
Let’s presume that we have nailed the art of, as Hemingway said, sitting down and bleeding on the page. How do we listen?
In a rare moment of vulnerability, I’ll use myself as an example. Recently, I was going over my writing in the hopes of discovering something new about myself. As I was going over countless scenes added in for what seemed like shock value, I noticed the pattern.
I had no control in my life and neither did my characters.
I was desperately trying to prove my writing was not mediocre.
Unfortunately, all I did was curate content that I didn’t feel proud enough to put on display because it neither represented me nor represented the art I wanted to be known for in the long run.
What was I left with? A crippling realization I have a control problem and one hundred ways that it manifested itself in my writing. Rape. Murder. Accidental deaths. Getting your finger lopped off because you get angry and fight a deadly corpse. It all screams I don’t have control, don’t you think?
The most important part of listening to your own writing is to notice your own patterns. What repetitive symbols do you have? What images are repeated? Do you have similar character models? Plot lines? What is the pattern in your writing?
That’s easy enough to discover. Once you do uncover your patterns, it’s important to distinguish which ones are important ones and which are not. For instance, none of my earlier books contain strong father figures because I didn’t have one. That’s unimportant to me, a fact I well know and have since remedied. I also tend to incorporate a lot of personification in my writing. I obsess a little over the universe and forests but this isn’t because there’s something I’m not addressing. It’s because I simply enjoy nature and really love including the stars in my books. If you don’t follow my Instagram, there’s more about that right here.
When you’ve culled the unimportant patterns, you’re left with what you believe to be the ones that matter. And how do you figure out what they mean? You guess.
It’s an educated guess, sure, but still a guess. I believe that’s the most important part. You could spend hours researching what a certain symbol means but my guess is that the moment you saw the symbol repeating you knew exactly what it meant to you.
Symbols often have a general meaning behind them but they are also incredibly personal. Certain symbols can mean something more to us than to others. Sure “yellow” might signify death as a general rule but to some, it may signify life. So if you see the recurring color red in your book, it might not symbolize anger, passion, or power but betrayal, death, or life.
This is why I think we should be the ones to determine what symbols mean to us. Since this is only a personal reflection, we ought to consider what our gut says more than what the research on Google has to offer.
Anyway, I’ll cut my rambling off there. If you are trying to learn some stuff about who you really are, dive into your writing, search out your patterns, and listen to what they’re saying. It’s nothing too complex after all.
As always, please give me and my Instagram a follow and don’t forget to check out my other stuff. I post every Monday and Thursday.