Writing to Learn About You
The Guardian recently ran an intervew with one of my favourite writers, Marilynne Robinson. The question and answer that I found most illuminating suggests why we write.
Q: The trilogy made up by Gilead, Home and Lila has had immense success. But what has it meant for you?
There’s a way in which, nonfiction or fiction, you learn your own mind, you find out what matters to you, what the questions are for you . . . .
And with fiction, you can put the problem out in front of yourself in a three-dimensional way, and work through it, and that’s very, very interesting.
Why do I like her response?
It’s usual for writers to focus on their readers, real or imagined. But it’s worth remembering that through our writing, we also have the opportunity to learn something about ourselves.
We generally know this when we write nonfiction, especially when our topic clearly links to our personal experiences and beliefs.
But what about fiction? Reflecting on some of my work, I realise fiction also provides a way to know and understand myself. I discover personal insights from the choices I make in telling a story—its setting, the issues that drive the story, and the characters I develop, especially in terms of how they act and why.
Does your fiction help you understand ‘what matters to you, what the questions are for you?