Saturday, November 10, 2007

Personal Fiction

Yesterday I was eating lunch with a couple of acquaintances. During the meal, one of my companions said that he writes short stories. He emphasized that his writing was strictly of a personal nature, not something he wanted to have published, and we all agreed on writing’s therapeutic value. His comments brought to mind something I’ve found interesting about male writers in general. Women are the gender more likely to write (or read), but when women write for themselves it’s often a first-person, journaling-style chronicle. Think: “Dear Diary,” but all grown up. Perhaps this is simply a reflection of gender differences in our society – women are more comfortable pouring out their thoughts and experiences, while men tend to develop stoic attitudes.

I’ve found that men tend to write fiction and poetry for their personal writing, often saying that they have no desire to write about their personal experiences. If their personal experiences do make it into a story, the events are heavily disguised and fictionalized. In my writing group, two of the three men are writing fiction and/or poetry. Jim, the one man who has written a memoir, took great care to change names and to use third person. Vince, who writes short fiction and poetry, says he finds stories about his life to be boring. Barry, who generally does poetry, does write about his observations and experiences – to a degree – but within the context of poetry’s lyrical, imagery-rich language.

We ladle just as much emotion and personal involvement into fiction as we do into a first person rant. Fiction can actually reveal deeper truths than a first-person foray into actual events. Sometimes the imagined version, the exaggeration, or the altering of an event holds more clues about its importance in our lives than the bare facts.

Do you write fiction or poetry as a form of personal writing? How has it provided you with a release?

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