Last Friday I wrote a Flash Fiction piece that strayed from the kind of stuff I normally write. By way of explanation, I preceded the story with a few words about how it echos, at least thematically, one of the journeys I’ve personally been on, and then I said this:
All the stories we imagine and tell are really just elements of our own stories–the stories of the author’s life. They are our fears, our failures, our victories and our fantasies brought to life. Sometimes the names, dates and circumstances are changed dramatically, but the stories almost always have pieces of ourselves hidden in them.
In a sense, that’s just another way of saying what I said last Tuesday. Everything is source material, even (and perhaps especially) your own personal journey. But it’s more than that, too.
As a writer, I often look at the things I’ve written and ask myself, “What does this say about me? What was I doing there? What’s underneath that story?” Most of the time there wasn’t much of anything going on in the background. Writing horror/fantasy can be an escape in and of itself, and I’ve written more than a few stories that were nothing but an elaborate evasion of my own reality. Sometimes I like to give my inner child sharp objects and encourage him to run.
But sometimes the themes, even the ones I didn’t architect, teach me things about myself. Sometimes I’ll re-read something and cock my head to the side and say to myself, “Huh. I didn’t realize I was feeling that.” To be clear, it would be an absolute waste of time to try to psychoanalyze me based on all my stories. Only some of them are applicable and I’m not about to tell you which ones. But I know. I know and I take time now and again to look them over and consider what I can learn from them.
Fiction authors keep journals even if they don’t mean to. Our stories have the potential to teach us about ourselves. If you don’t already, take some time to re-read your own material. Allow your mind to marinade in the worlds you’ve created. You don’t have to push hard for insight–this isn’t therapy–but you may be surprised at how often insight finds you in the pages of your own tales.