Writing from real life

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[Image: A person writing in a journal. They are looking to the left with the pen in their mouth, an apprehensive expression on their face.]

When I was writing my book, Into Love and Out Again, the last part of it was consumed with my eternal fear about what would happen when my muse found out he had just not inspired me to write a poem, but an entire book. Worst case scenarios consumed my thoughts. I imagined him screaming at me for it, demanding that I never contact him again, even threatening me with legal action what I had done. For some reason, this overwhelming fear pushed me to my breaking point to where I just blurted out the truth over a Facebook message.

It occurred to me sometime later that this isn’t exactly the first time that I’ve taken inspiration from real life for my work. In college I had written a semi-autobiographical novel that had a great deal to do with the men that were currently in my life. So much so that it became a bit of a sticking point with an ex-boyfriend. But it didn’t hit me until I was looking over some old poetry just how much I had written about other people in my work.

My poems from college were a chronological testament to my failed romantic relationships, my inability to cope with my undiagnosed, then diagnosed illness, and female friends and other relationships made appearances as well. I have written a lot about other people in my writing. And never before has it been important or even mattered that I tell any of them.

There is one major difference here; the poems that I wrote before, I had no intention of publishing or even showing other people. They were all safely tucked away in Word documents never to be read by anyone other than me. It’s hardly logical to claim that I needed to inform people of something I wrote for myself that I didn’t plan on others reading. Into Love and Out Again was intended to be published. And while the opportunity remained that the muse of the work could find out about it, I didn’t want him to learn about it through other means. I wanted him to hear it from me and for me to put it in context.

However, my all-consuming guilt that I had written about another person in my work just seems more illogical than I was when I first had the thought. I’ve been chronicling my feelings about other people for years. This was not a new development. My sudden concern about it and the absolute need to tell him now just seems more irrational than ever. It really reinforces just how desperate my mind was to come up with some reason why he was going to be angry with me and want to cut off all communication.

I recently read the book Unrequited, about women that fall into unrequited love. It has an entire section on people using this kind of experience as inspiration for works of art. It mentions art displays, films, and writing. In a way, I’m a lot more normal than I thought I was. What I did wasn’t just something that I did out of my mental illness or need to compulsively record my existence. It was something that lots of people have done exactly what I did in order to deal with these unreturned feelings.

In the end, the book talks about positive ways of dealing with being rejected and sometimes mistreated by the person that you care most about. One of them is through turning your pain into art and making using it to relate to others that have suffered through the same agony of unrequited love. Which, according to the book, is about 93% of the population. In some ways, I was a textbook case of a writer suffering from the throes of unreturned passion. In every other way, I was just me, doing what I do, dealing with emotional events how I usually deal with them. And really, there’s nothing wrong with being open and honest about my feelings on paper.