This is another interesting article on writing.

Why I Stopped Writing Fiction

Jane Harkness

Apr 7

I write, I travel, and I like to get political. janeharknesswrites.com.

I used to dream of writing a novel one day — you know, like every other budding writer.

Honestly, I had no illusions of being a bestselling author or anything, but writing a novel was definitely a major goal of mine.

Perhaps something in the fantasy genre, or possibly a book about the paranormal.

The idea of creating my own little world, coming up with interesting characters and settings, and weaving a plot together from my imagination was enthralling at the time.

At the age of like, eight, I said I wanted to write fiction — it sounded so much more interesting than writing nonfiction.

What would becoming a nonfiction author even entail? Would I have to write boring textbooks like the ones I was forced to read from in school? Or biographies of dead presidents?

Um, no thank you.

Hard pass from second grade Jane.

In high school, I finally had the opportunity take a creative writing class. I also attempted NaNoWriMo twice. During these years, I began to notice a trend when it came to my “fictional” stories — they were badly disguised versions of events that had occurred in my life.

Honestly, this was a habit of mine since I began writing short stories in my elementary school English classes. But back then, it just seemed like fun — why not put my classmates and myself in my stories? As I got older, I realized it was a pattern I couldn’t seem to break.

I knew that writers often wrote fictional stories based off personal experiences, but I wanted to challenge myself to try something new. I could still draw ideas from my own life, of course, but I had to change the characters and events enough that no one would be able to tell what had inspired it.

I tried this for a couple years.

Every time, one of two things would happen.

Either I would end up failing in my quest to switch things up, or I would finally manage to create a story that wasn’t a carbon copy of something I had lived through — and I would end up feeling bored and unmotivated.

At this point, four years had passed since that first creative writing class. I was in college, taking another creative writing course, still focusing on writing “fictional” stories that were barely fictional.

My childhood love of fiction had fizzled.

I needed a different approach to writing.

When I was eight, I had barely experienced anything, so I had to create stories from scratch — but now, I had seen more of the world, and my experiences were influencing everything I wrote.

But did I have to keep running from that desire to share more of my real life? Did I have to keep forcing myself into the fiction box and hiding everything I wanted to say behind a made-up storyline?

I had to put myself out there. If I wanted to grow as a writer, there was no other option. I had to be brave enough to say, “This happened to me,” to announce, “This is what I truly believe.”

I had to get my actual experiences out there on paper, to just let myself write without trying to squeeze my stories into imaginary characters, to be vulnerable and raw and honest.

The next semester, I took a nature-writing course (ah, to be an English major at a liberal arts school). All of our assignments involved writing nonfiction — everything from short journal entries each week to a ten-page essay at the end of the semester.

My professor didn’t just nudge me out of my comfort zone — she kicked me out and blocked the door. There was no way I could hide behind fiction in her class.

So I let it all out.

My classmates got to hear about everything from my failed attempts at surfing with my dad as a child to my views on spirituality to the time my family was displaced by a hurricane.

After writing for over a decade, I finally began to find my voice.

A year later, I took a poetry class, and I felt no shame as I unleashed all of my personal angst into workshopping sessions.

Sometimes I felt like an emo teenager scribbling in my journal, but didn’t care anymore. I wrote about almost-relationships that never really were and the dreams I was scared to reach for and poems about my Jersey Shore hometown stuffed with Springsteen references.

Why not? That’s who I was.

Call it self-centered, but I love writing about my own life. I’m finally free to be myself. And after all, there’s no subject I know better.

It’s been almost three years since that last poetry class. Now, I share bits and pieces of my life here on Medium every single day.

I would still like to publish a book someday — but it definitely won’t be a fantasy novel. In fact, it’ll probably be about the stories I’m already living.



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