Two days ago, I watched the 2012 Movie The Words with Bradley Cooper. The film is a Russian nesting doll of narratives about a young, struggling author who finds an old manuscript while on his honeymoon and publishes it as his own.
When watching the beginning of the movie, I figured that its theme is that though fiction is on the surface make believe, fiction always has its roots in truth and an element of the writer in it.
It turned out I was right about the movie’s theme. At one point, Clay Hammond, the Dennis Quaid character, said:
“At some point, you have to choose between life and fiction. The two are very close, but they never actually touch.”
Sometimes when I let someone read my poetry or a novel manuscript, he or she asked me, “How do you come up with this stuff?” Occasionally I was told along the lines of “I didn’t know you can write this. You look so quiet and sweet!” Of course they assumed I incorporated my life and experiences into my work. I didn’t go into detail about my inspiration, so I was vague with my answers.
I used to think drawing upon my life as inspiration for my work was a terrible thing; to me, that indicated too little creativity and too much willingness to exploit. Yet over the years, I realized all writers do this, no matter how much they deny it. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Sometimes it’s scary for a writer to put his or her own life on paper because that’s their soul. When the work gets rejected, it’s like getting rejected as a person. When a loved one gets mad or upset that they’re being written about, it seems like a betrayal. Guess what? That’s all okay. It’s the writer’s job to comment on life in a fictional setting. In the end, I’m fine with this aspect of the territory because I’ll do what I want with my writing. And I’d much rather put my soul on paper than to actually talk about my life with some stranger of a shrink.
Teresa Edmond-Sargeant is an Orlando, FL-based writer, journalist, author and poet. She is the founder/owner of Heathermoors Books & Words, a freelance writing service that customizes content for local publications and small businesses in Central Florida. A former staff writer in North Jersey, Edmond-Sargeant won two NJ Press Association Awards. She is the author of a poetry book “How Fate’s Confusion Connects” and an Amazon Kindle short story ebook “Eve the First,: A Fairy Tale Revision”.