This post has a sappy-sounding title, but it applied best to what this post is about, so I hope the post won’t be too sappy. Sorry if it is, and if you like that sort of thing, then I’m not sorry. 🙂
Back when I was in high school, I got to do this fun mentorship program where we could work with someone in any field we were interested. Since my dad started the program I got to participate (that wasn’t the only reason–I was a good, responsible student as well). I, of course, wanted to partnered with a published author, and they found me one who lived just a few miles away who was willing to put up with me. I gave her some of my writing samples and then we started meeting. She was a very nice lady, and she had a written a novel about a woman with lupus finding love when she took some classes at the local community college. (I can’t remember her name or the book and I don’t have it here with me–I think her first name was Barbara).
Well, Barbara also had lupus and had taken classes at a local community college under a teacher remarkably like the romantic interest in the book (though she assured me the love part did not happen. That was the fiction, I guess). After reading my samples, her main focus of our internship became trying to get me to “write from the heart.” I think she thought my stuff was weird. I believe I’d given her a short story about a guy who drank some potion that made him crazy or invisible or something. So I had to write all these short essays about special moments and people in my life. And I did not enjoy it–the writing part–I did like meeting with her. It didn’t feel like writing from the heart to me, though she thought by the end that I’d grown so much. This is nothing against Barbara, but her style of writing just wasn’t the same as mine.
Ever since I’ve kind of dismissed the “Write from your heart advice.” I always write what I like and what I’m interested in, but it doesn’t come close to mirroring my life.
Then I read this article in Writer’s Digest by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni called “The Novelist’s Guide to Writing What [Only] You Know.” At first, since it’s in the middle of a big section all about writing memoirs and such, I thought it would tell me the same thing Barbara did, and I almost didn’t read it, but as I was scanning through, I realized that this was different, and I stopped to actually read it.
Divakaruni says that she found her writing success in writing pulling from experiences all throughout her life–including events only witnessed/read about or even imagined, and that’s when I realized that my current work in progress is truly the book of my heart.
Basicially, I thought up my current book when I was in 8th grade, and it has been building up inside of me ever since. A moment as small as sitting around the lunch table with my friends, joking about boyfriends, created this big idea of mine–that’s finally useful almost 20 years later. None of those girls are my friends now; I haven’t spoken to them in forever, but they are always going to be special to me because they were the spark that fired this book. And I’ve realized that I’m sprinkling the book with all kinds of other material from a bunch of other experiences throughout my life–not big experiences, but some that were important to me. I think these experiences are what makes my book special and will be what will hopefully make my book stand out when it is finished and ready to show off.
So, even if you’re not writing something realistic or touching or even remotely about yourself, it can still be “from your heart” if it comes from somewhere inside you, built on what you love and what is meaningful to you.