Everything we write whether it’s literary fiction, memoir, or science fiction, comes from the influence of our own lives. Those parts of our lives might be written in metaphors or vague references. Some of us are more direct, we write stories based on actual events in our life. We write to play and make sense of our reality.
The question I’ve been playing with? Well, what is reality? In context, especially, to us writers. Reality is our perception of the world, the priorities we arrange in our day to day existence that become most notable.
For example, someone who is caught up in the intricate details of the mundane may take note of the steam rising from a cup of coffee, the light shining off the leaf of a tree, the lines on the sidewalk. The same world might be very different for a person who is focused on climate change. Their mental and emotional bandwidth will note every plastic cup being sipped on the way to work, news headlines that catch their attention and fill their thoughts will be focused on our environment, and therefore their reality. An animal lover will notice every dog in the car, every injured squirrel, and know all the local shelters and animal-helplines by heart and therefore program their world reality with that focus. The same world can be a million things depending on who you are.
For me, this becomes a fascinating idea when it comes to the work we do as writers. We are obviously writing about things, places, and scenarios that come partially from what is most palpable to us. Readers therefore will interpret our stories with the perspective they are seeing the world with. When I wrote The Body Myth, I honestly thought most readers would pick up on a fundamental philosophical question about existential purpose. When the book was published, however, readers picked up on other elements of narrative, many of which I had not thought about myself.
I’d like to toy with the idea that writers are essentially reality expanders. Expanding other possible truths together, some of which we might never participate in.
But what happens when you as a writer truly want to use real world events: personal and political and ‘talk’ to the reader about it? How do we align with the fact that we both have complete control and no control over our own narratives?
Here are a few things I’ve been realizing and working with over the past couple of years. [Read more…]